D. W. Bapst, A. M. Wright, N. J. Matzke & G. T. Lloyd (2016)
Topology, divergence dates, and macroevolutionary inferences vary between different tip-dating approaches applied to fossil theropods (Dinosauria).
Biology Letters 2016 12: 20160237
Dated phylogenies of fossil taxa allow palaeobiologists to estimate the timing of major divergences and placement of extinct lineages, and to test macroevolutionary hypotheses. Recently developed Bayesian ‘tip-dating’ methods simultaneously infer and date the branching relationships among fossil taxa, and infer putative ancestral relationships. Using a previously published dataset for extinct theropod dinosaurs, we contrast the dated relationships inferred by several tip-dating approaches and evaluate potential downstream effects on phylogenetic comparative methods. We also compare tip-dating analyses to maximum-parsimony trees time-scaled via alternative a posteriori approaches including via the probabilistic cal3 method. Among tip-dating analyses, we find opposing but strongly supported relationships, despite similarity in inferred ancestors. Overall, tip-dating methods infer divergence dates often millions (or tens of millions) of years older than the earliest stratigraphic appearance of that clade. Model-comparison analyses of the pattern of body-size evolution found that the support for evolutionary mode can vary across and between tree samples from cal3 and tip-dating approaches. These differences suggest that model and software choice in dating analyses can have a substantial impact on the dated phylogenies obtained and broader evolutionary inferences.