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[dinosaur] Smilodon and dire wolf injuries + shared genes favor crocodiles and turtles as sister lineages

Ben Creisler

Some new non-dino papers:

Caitlin Brown, Mairin Balisi, Christopher A. Shaw & Blaire Van Valkenburgh (2017)
Skeletal trauma reflects hunting behaviour in extinct sabre-tooth cats and dire wolves.
Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0131 (2017)

Skeletal-injury frequency and distribution are likely to reflect hunting behaviour in predatory vertebrates and might therefore differ between species with distinct hunting modes. Two Pleistocene predators from the Rancho La Brea asphalt seeps, the sabre-tooth cat, Smilodon fatalis, and dire wolf, Canis dirus, represent ambush and pursuit predators, respectively. On the basis of a collection of over 1,900 pathological elements, the frequency of traumatic injury across skeletal elements in these two species was calculated. Here we show that the frequency of trauma in the sabre-tooth cat exceeds that of the dire wolf (4.3% compared to 2.8%), implying that the killing behaviour of S. fatalis entailed greater risk of injury. The distribution of traumatic injuries also differed between the two species. S. fatalis, an ambush predator, was injured more often than expected across the lumbar vertebrae and shoulders whereas C. dirus, a pursuit predator, had higher than expected levels of injury in the limbs and cervical vertebrae. Spatial analysis was used to quantify differences in the distribution of putative hunting injuries. Analysis of injury locations discriminated true hotspots from injury-dense areas and facilitated interpretation of predatory behaviour, demonstrating the use of spatial analyses in the study of vertebrate behaviour and evolution. These results suggest that differences in trauma distribution reflect distinct hazards of each species’ hunting mode.




Xing-Xing Shen, Chris Todd Hittinger & Antonis Rokas (2017)
Contentious relationships in phylogenomic studies can be driven by a handful of genes.
Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0126 (2017)

Phylogenomic studies have resolved countless branches of the tree of life, but remain strongly contradictory on certain, contentious relationships. Here, we use a maximum likelihood framework to quantify the distribution of phylogenetic signal among genes and sites for 17 contentious branches and 6 well-established control branches in plant, animal and fungal phylogenomic data matrices. We find that resolution in some of these 17 branches rests on a single gene or a few sites, and that removal of a single gene in concatenation analyses or a single site from every gene in coalescence-based analyses diminishes support and can alter the inferred topology. These results suggest that tiny subsets of very large data matrices drive the resolution of specific internodes, providing a dissection of the distribution of support and observed incongruence in phylogenomic analyses. We submit that quantifying the distribution of phylogenetic signal in phylogenomic data is essential for evaluating whether branches, especially contentious ones, are truly resolved. Finally, we offer one detailed example of such an evaluation for the controversy regarding the earliest-branching metazoan phylum, for which examination of the distributions of gene-wise and site-wise phylogenetic signal across eight data matrices consistently supports ctenophores as the sister group to all other metazoans.


74 percent of the shared genes favor the hypothesis that crocodiles and turtles are sister lineages while birds are close cousins.