Benedict King, Tuo Qiao, Michael S. Y. Lee, Min Zhu, and John A. Long (2016)
Bayesian Morphological Clock Methods Resurrect Placoderm Monophyly and Reveal Rapid Early Evolution in Jawed Vertebrates.
Systematic Biology (advance online publication)
The phylogeny of early gnathostomes provides an important framework for understanding one of the most significant evolutionary events, the origin and diversification of jawed vertebrates. A series of recent cladistic analyses have suggested that the placoderms, an extinct group of armoured fish, form a paraphyletic group basal to all other jawed vertebrates. We revised and expanded this morphological data set, most notably by sampling autapomorphies in a similar way to parsimony-informative traits, thus ensuring this data (unlike most existing morphological data sets) satisfied an important assumption of Bayesian tip-dated morphological clock approaches. We also found problems with characters supporting placoderm paraphyly, including character correlation and incorrect codings. Analysis of this data set reveals that paraphyly and monophyly of core placoderms (excluding maxillate forms) are essentially equally parsimonious. The two alternative topologies have different root positions for the jawed vertebrates but are otherwise similar. However, analysis using tip-dated clock methods reveals strong support for placoderm monophyly, due to this analysis favoring trees with more balanced rates of evolution. Furthermore, enforcing placoderm paraphyly results in higher levels and unusual patterns of rate heterogeneity among branches, similar to that generated from simulated trees reconstructed with incorrect root positions. These simulations also show that Bayesian tip-dated clock methods outperform parsimony when the outgroup is largely uninformative (e.g., due to inapplicable characters), as might be the case here. The analysis also reveals that gnathostomes underwent a rapid burst of evolution during the Silurian period which declined during the Early Devonian. This rapid evolution during a period with few articulated fossils might partly explain the difficulty in ascertaining the root position of jawed vertebrates.
Lauren Sallan (2016)
Fish ‘tails’ result from outgrowth and reduction of two separate ancestral tails.
Current Biology 26(23): pR1224–R1225
The symmetrical, flexible teleost fish ‘tail’ has been a prime example of recapitulation — evolutionary change (phylogeny) mirrored in development (ontogeny). Paleozoic ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii), relatives of teleosts, exhibited ancestral scale-covered tails curved over their caudal fins. For over 150 years, this arrangement was thought to be retained in teleost larva and overgrown, mirroring an ancestral transformation series. New ontogenetic data for the 350-million-year-old teleost relative Aetheretmon overturns this long-held hypothesis. The ancestral state consists of two outgrowths with distinct organizers and growth trajectories; a lower median fin turned caudal fin, and an upper vertebrae-bearing tail, equivalent to that of tetrapods. These two tails appear at a shared developmental stage in Aetheretmon, teleosts and all living actinopterygians. Ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny; instead, differential outgrowth determines final morphology. In Aetheretmon and other Paleozoic fishes, the vertebrae-bearing tail continues to grow beyond the caudal fin. In teleosts, and some others, a stunted tail is eclipsed by the upward-expanding caudal fin, rendering a once ventral body margin as the terminus. The double tail likely reflects the ancestral state for bony fishes. Many tetrapods and non-teleost actinopterygians have undergone body elongation through tail outgrowth extension, by mechanisms likely shared with distal limbs. Teleosts have gone to the other extreme; losing tail outgrowth for functional reasons. Recognition of the tail as a limb-like outgrowth has important implications for the evolution of vertebrate form.