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  1. Abstract Motivation

    Timetrees depict evolutionary relationships between species and the geological times of their divergence. Hundreds of research articles containing timetrees are published in scientific journals every year. The TimeTree (TT) project has been manually locating, curating and synthesizing timetrees from these articles for almost two decades into a TimeTree of Life, delivered through a unique, user-friendly web interface ( The manual process of finding articles containing timetrees is becoming increasingly expensive and time-consuming. So, we have explored the effectiveness of text-mining approaches and developed optimizations to find research articles containing timetrees automatically.


    We have developed an optimized machine learning system to determine if a research article contains an evolutionary timetree appropriate for inclusion in the TT resource. We found that BERT classification fine-tuned on whole-text articles achieved an F1 score of 0.67, which we increased to 0.88 by text-mining article excerpts surrounding the mentioning of figures. The new method is implemented in the TimeTreeFinder (TTF) tool, which automatically processes millions of articles to discover timetree-containing articles. We estimate that the TTF tool would produce twice as many timetree-containing articles as those discovered manually, whose inclusion in the TT database would potentially double the knowledge accessible to a wider community. Manualmore »inspection showed that the precision on out-of-distribution recently published articles is 87%. This automation will speed up the collection and curation of timetrees with much lower human and time costs.

    Availability and implementation

    Supplementary information

    Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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  2. Abstract We present the fifth edition of the TimeTree of Life resource (TToL5), a product of the timetree of life project that aims to synthesize published molecular timetrees and make evolutionary knowledge easily accessible to all. Using the TToL5 web portal, users can retrieve published studies and divergence times between species, the timeline of a species’ evolution beginning with the origin of life, and the timetree for a given evolutionary group at the desired taxonomic rank. TToL5 contains divergence time information on 137,306 species, 41% more than the previous edition. The TToL5 web interface is now Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant and mobile-friendly, a result of comprehensive source code refactoring. TToL5 also offers programmatic access to species divergence times and timelines through an application programming interface, which is accessible at TToL5 is publicly available at
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  3. Tamura, Koichiro (Ed.)
    Abstract Biodiversity analyses of phylogenomic timetrees have produced many high-profile examples of shifts in the rate of speciation across the tree of life. Temporally correlated events in ecology, climate, and biogeography are frequently invoked to explain these rate shifts. In a re-examination of 15 genomic timetrees and 25 major published studies of the pattern of speciation through time, we observed an unexpected correlation between the timing of reported rate shifts and the information content of sequence alignments. Here, we show that the paucity of sequence variation and insufficient species sampling in phylogenomic data sets are the likely drivers of many inferred speciation rate shifts, rather than the proposed biological explanations. Therefore, data limitations can produce predictable but spurious signals of rate shifts even when speciation rates may be similar across taxa and time. Our results suggest that the reliable detection of speciation rate shifts requires the acquisition and assembly of long phylogenomic alignments with near-complete species sampling and accurate estimates of species richness for the clades of study.
  4. Abstract

    Cryptogenic species are those whose native and introduced ranges are unknown. The extent and long history of human migration rendered numerous species cryptogenic. Incomplete knowledge regarding the origin and native habitat of a species poses problems for conservation management and may confound ecological and evolutionary studies. The Lesser Antilles pose a particular challenge with regard to cryptogenic species because these islands have been anthropogenically connected since before recorded history. Here, we use population genetic and phylogeographic tools in an attempt to determine the origin ofEleutherodactylus johnstonei, a frog species with a potentially widespread introduced range and whose native range within the Lesser Antilles is unknown. Based on elevated estimates of genetic diversity and within-island geographic structure not present elsewhere in the range, we identify Montserrat as the native island ofE. johnstonei. We also document two major clades withinE. johnstonei, only one of which is the primary source of introduced populations throughout the Americas. Our results demonstrate the utility of genetic tools for resolving cryptogenic species problems and highlightE. johnstoneias a potential system for understanding differences in invasive potential among sister lineages.

  5. Battistuzzi, Fabia Ursula (Ed.)
    Abstract The relationships among the four major embryophyte lineages (mosses, liverworts, hornworts, vascular plants) and the timing of the origin of land plants are enigmatic problems in plant evolution. Here, we resolve the monophyly of bryophytes by improving taxon sampling of hornworts and eliminating the effect of synonymous substitutions. We then estimate the divergence time of crown embryophytes based on three fossil calibration strategies, and reveal that maximum calibration constraints have a major effect on estimating the time of origin of land plants. Moreover, comparison of priors and posteriors provides a guide for evaluating the optimal calibration strategy. By considering the reliability of fossil calibrations and the influences of molecular data, we estimate that land plants originated in the Precambrian (980–682 Ma), much older than widely recognized. Our study highlights the important contribution of molecular data when faced with contentious fossil evidence, and that fossil calibrations used in estimating the timescale of plant evolution require critical scrutiny.
  6. Abstract Comprehensive assessments of species’ extinction risks have documented the extinction crisis 1 and underpinned strategies for reducing those risks 2 . Global assessments reveal that, among tetrapods, 40.7% of amphibians, 25.4% of mammals and 13.6% of birds are threatened with extinction 3 . Because global assessments have been lacking, reptiles have been omitted from conservation-prioritization analyses that encompass other tetrapods 4–7 . Reptiles are unusually diverse in arid regions, suggesting that they may have different conservation needs 6 . Here we provide a comprehensive extinction-risk assessment of reptiles and show that at least 1,829 out of 10,196 species (21.1%) are threatened—confirming a previous extrapolation 8 and representing 15.6 billion years of phylogenetic diversity. Reptiles are threatened by the same major factors that threaten other tetrapods—agriculture, logging, urban development and invasive species—although the threat posed by climate change remains uncertain. Reptiles inhabiting forests, where these threats are strongest, are more threatened than those in arid habitats, contrary to our prediction. Birds, mammals and amphibians are unexpectedly good surrogates for the conservation of reptiles, although threatened reptiles with the smallest ranges tend to be isolated from other threatened tetrapods. Although some reptiles—including most species of crocodiles and turtles—require urgent, targeted action to prevent extinctions, efforts tomore »protect other tetrapods, such as habitat preservation and control of trade and invasive species, will probably also benefit many reptiles.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 12, 2023