Morphology forms the most fundamental level of data in vertebrate palaeontology because it is through interpretations of morphology that taxa are identified, creating the basis for broad evolutionary and palaeobiological hypotheses. Assessing maturity is one of the most basic aspects of morphological interpretation and provides the means to study the evolution of ontogenetic changes, population structure and palaeoecology, life‐history strategies, and heterochrony along evolutionary lineages that would otherwise be lost to time. Saurian reptiles (the least‐inclusive clade containing Lepidosauria and Archosauria) have remained an incredibly diverse, numerous, and disparate clade through their ~260‐million‐year history. Because of the great disparity in this group, assessing maturity of saurian reptiles is difficult, fraught with methodological and terminological ambiguity. We compiled a novel database of literature, assembling >900 individual instances of saurian maturity assessment, to examine critically how saurian maturity has been diagnosed. We review the often inexact and inconsistent terminology used in saurian maturity assessment (e.g. ‘juvenile’, ‘mature’) and provide routes for better clarity and cross‐study coherence. We describe the various methods that have been used to assess maturity in every major saurian group, integrating data from both extant and extinct taxa to give a full account of the current state of the field and providing method‐specific pitfalls, best practices, and fruitful directions for future research. We recommend that a new standard subsection, ‘Ontogenetic Assessment’, be added to the Systematic Palaeontology portions of descriptive studies to provide explicit ontogenetic diagnoses with clear criteria. Because the utility of different ontogenetic criteria is highly subclade dependent among saurians, even for widely used methods (e.g. neurocentral suture fusion), we recommend that phylogenetic context, preferably in the form of a phylogenetic bracket, be used to justify the use of a maturity assessment method. Different methods should be used in conjunction as independent lines of evidence when assessing maturity, instead of an ontogenetic diagnosis resting entirely on a single criterion, which is common in the literature. Critically, there is a need for data from extant taxa with well‐represented growth series to be integrated with the fossil record to ground maturity assessments of extinct taxa in well‐constrained, empirically tested methods.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Biological Reviews
- Medium: X Size: p. 470-525
- ["p. 470-525"]
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
null (Ed.)Abstract Background and Aims Cunoniaceae are woody plants with a distribution that suggests a complex history of Gondwanan vicariance, long-distance dispersal, diversification and extinction. Only four out of ~27 genera in Cunoniaceae are native to South America today, but the discovery of extinct species from Argentine Patagonia is providing new information about the history of this family in South America. Methods We describe fossil flowers collected from early Danian (early Palaeocene, ~64 Mya) deposits of the Salamanca Formation. We compare them with similar flowers from extant and extinct species using published literature and herbarium specimens. We used simultaneous analysis of morphology and available chloroplast DNA sequences (trnL–F, rbcL, matK, trnH–psbA) to determine the probable relationship of these fossils to living Cunoniaceae and the co-occurring fossil species Lacinipetalum spectabilum. Key Results Cunoniantha bicarpellata gen. et sp. nov. is the second species of Cunoniaceae to be recognized among the flowers preserved in the Salamanca Formation. Cunoniantha flowers are pentamerous and complete, the anthers contain in situ pollen, and the gynoecium is bicarpellate and syncarpous with two free styles. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Cunoniantha belongs to crown-group Cunoniaceae among the core Cunoniaceae clade, although it does not have obvious affinity with any tribe. Lacinipetalum spectabilum, also from the Salamanca Formation, belongs to the Cunoniaceae crown group as well, but close to tribe Schizomerieae. Conclusions Our findings highlight the importance of West Gondwana in the evolution of Cunoniaceae during the early Palaeogene. The co-occurrence of C. bicarpellata and L. spectabilum, belonging to different clades within Cunoniaceae, indicates that the diversification of crown-group Cunoniaceae was under way by 64 Mya.more » « less
Fossil data may be crucial to infer biogeographical history, especially in taxa with tropical trans‐Pacific distributions. Here, we use extinct and extant trochanteriid flattened spiders to test hypotheses that could explain its trans‐Pacific disjunct distribution, including a Boreotropical origin with a North Atlantic dispersal, an African origin with South Atlantic dispersal and an Eurasian origin with Bering Bridge route.
Plator‐ Doliomalus‐ Vectius(PDV) clade. Methods
MicroCT was used to collect morphological data from an undescribed Baltic amber fossil. These data were used with additional fossils and extant species in a total‐evidence, tip‐dated phylogenetic analysis. We tested different scenarios using constrained dispersal matrices in a Bayesian approach. An analysis with fossils pruned was also performed to explore how lack of fossil data might impact inferences of biogeographical process.
The phylogenetic analyses allowed us to place the new fossil in the genus
Plator. Analyses without fossils suggest an African origin with a dispersal to Asia from India and a South Atlantic dispersal to South America. When fossils are included, hypothesis‐testing rejects this scenario and equally supports a Boreotropical and an Afro‐European origin with a South Atlantic route and a dispersal to Asia from Europe. Main conclusions
Biogeographical inferences of disjunctly distributed taxa should be interpreted with caution when fossils are not included. Although one alternative hypothesis was not completely rejected, results show that the Boreotropical hypothesis for the PDV clade could be a robust explanation for its actual distribution. This hypothesis is mostly overlooked in animal taxa and rigorous tests with other taxa with similar distributions may reveal that a Boreotropical origin is common. We discuss methodological approaches that could improve biogeographical tests using fossils as terminals.
The Copepoda is a clade of pancrustaceans containing 14,485 species that are extremely varied in their morphology and lifestyle. Not only do copepods dominate marine plankton and sediment communities and make up a sizeable component of the freshwater plankton, but over 6,000 species are symbiotically associated with every major phylum of marine metazoans, mostly as parasites. Unfortunately, our understanding of copepod evolutionary relationships is relatively limited in part because of their extremely divergent morphology, sparse taxon sampling in molecular phylogenetic analyses, a reliance on only a handful of molecular markers, and little taxonomic overlap between phylogenetic studies. Here, a synthesis tree method is used to integrate published phylogenies into a more comprehensive tree of copepods by leveraging phylogenetic and taxonomic data. A literature review in this study finds fewer than 500 species of copepods have been sampled in molecular phylogenetic studies. Using the Open Tree of Life platform, those taxa that have been sampled in previous phylogenetic studies are grafted together and combined with the underlying copepod taxonomic hierarchy from the Open Tree of Life Taxonomy to make a synthesis phylogeny of all copepod species. Taxon sampling with respect to molecular phylogenetic analyses is reviewed for all orders of copepods and shows only 3% of copepod species have been sampled in phylogenetic studies. The resulting synthesis phylogeny reveals copepods have transitioned to a parasitic lifestyle on at least 14 occasions. We examine the underlying phylogenetic, taxonomic, and natural history data supporting these transitions to parasitism; review the species diversity of each parasitic clade; and identify key areas for further phylogenetic investigation.more » « less
BACKGROUND The Republic of Madagascar is home to a unique assemblage of taxa and a diverse set of ecosystems. These high levels of diversity have arisen over millions of years through complex processes of speciation and extinction. Understanding this extraordinary diversity is crucial for highlighting its global importance and guiding urgent conservation efforts. However, despite the detailed knowledge that exists on some taxonomic groups, there are large knowledge gaps that remain to be filled. ADVANCES Our comprehensive analysis of major taxonomic groups in Madagascar summarizes information on the origin and evolution of terrestrial and freshwater biota, current species richness and endemism, and the utilization of this biodiversity by humans. The depth and breadth of Madagascar’s biodiversity—the product of millions of years of evolution in relative isolation —is still being uncovered. We report a recent acceleration in the scientific description of species but many remain relatively unknown, particularly fungi and most invertebrates. DIGITIZATION Digitization efforts are already increasing the resolution of species richness patterns and we highlight the crucial role of field- and collections-based research for advancing biodiversity knowledge in Madagascar. Phylogenetic diversity patterns mirror that of species richness and endemism in most of the analyzed groups. Among the new data presented, our update on plant numbers estimates 11,516 described vascular plant species native to Madagascar, of which 82% are endemic, in addition to 1215 bryophyte species, of which 28% are endemic. Humid forests are highlighted as centers of diversity because of their role as refugia and centers of recent and rapid radiations, but the distinct endemism of other areas such as the grassland-woodland mosaic of the Central Highlands and the spiny forest of the southwest is also important despite lower species richness. Endemism in Malagasy fungi remains poorly known given the lack of data on the total diversity and global distribution of species. However, our analysis has shown that ~75% of the fungal species detected by environmental sequencing have not been reported as occurring outside of Madagascar. Among the 1314 species of native terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates, levels of endemism are extremely high (90% overall)—all native nonflying terrestrial mammals and native amphibians are found nowhere else on Earth; further, 56% of the island’s birds, 81% of freshwater fishes, 95% of mammals, and 98% of reptile species are endemic. Little is known about endemism in insects, but data from the few well-studied groups on the island suggest that it is similarly high. The uses of Malagasy species are many, with much potential for the uncovering of useful traits for food, medicine, and climate mitigation. OUTLOOK Considerable work remains to be done to fully characterize Madagascar’s biodiversity and evolutionary history. The multitudes of known and potential uses of Malagasy species reported here, in conjunction with the inherent value of this unique and biodiverse region, reinforce the importance of conserving this unique biota in the face of major threats such as habitat loss and overexploitation. The gathering and analysis of data on Madagascar’s remarkable biota must continue and accelerate if we are to safeguard this unique and highly threatened subset of Earth’s biodiversity. Emergence and composition of Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity. Madagascar’s biota is the result of over 160 million years of evolution, mostly in geographic isolation, combined with sporadic long distance immigration events and local extinctions. (Left) We show the age of the oldest endemic Malagasy clade for major groups (from bottom to top): arthropods, bony fishes, reptiles, flatworms, birds, amphibians, flowering plants, mammals, non-flowering vascular plants, and mollusks). Humans arrived recently, some 10,000 to 2000 years (top right) and have directly or indirectly caused multiple extinctions (including hippopotamus, elephant birds, giant tortoises, and giant lemurs) and introduced many new species (such as dogs, zebu, rats, African bushpigs, goats, sheep, rice). Endemism is extremely high and unevenly distributed across the island (the heat map depicts Malagasy palm diversity, a group characteristic of the diverse humid forest). Human use of biodiversity is widespread, including 1916 plant species with reported uses. The scientific description of Malagasy biodiversity has accelerated greatly in recent years (bottom right), yet the diversity and evolution of many groups remain practically unknown, and many discoveries await.more » « less
Although deer mice (Peromyscus spp.) are among the most studied small mammals, their species diversity and phylogenetic relationships remain unclear. The lack of taxonomic clarity is mainly due to a conservative morphology and because some taxa are rare, have restricted distributions, or are poorly sampled. One taxon, P. mexicanus, includes southern Mexican subspecies that have not had their systematic placement tested with genetic data. We analyzed the phylogenetic relationships and genetic structure of P. mexicanus populations using sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b. We inferred that P. mexicanus is paraphyletic, with P. m. teapensis, P. m. tehuantepecus, andP. m. totontepecus more closely related to P. gymnotis than to P. m. mexicanus. This highly divergent clade ranges from northeastern Oaxaca to northern Chiapas, including southern Veracruz, and southern Tabasco. In light of this group’s mitochondrial distinctiveness, cohesive geographic range, and previously reported molecular, biochemical, and morphological differences, we recommend it be treated as P. totontepecus. Our findings demonstrate the need for an improved understanding of the diversity and evolutionary history of these common and abundant members of North American small mammal communities.more » « less