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[dinosaur] Fossil record improvements may reconcile molecular and morphological phylogenies of mammals (free pdf)

A new bioRxiv preprint that may be of interest to the list:

Robin M. D. Beck, Charles Baillie. Improvements in the fossil record may largely resolve the conflict between morphological and molecular estimates of mammal phylogeny. bioRxiv doi:10.1101/373191. First posted online July 20, 2018.

Morphological phylogenies of mammals continue to show major conflicts with the robust molecular consensus view of their relationships. This raises doubts as to whether current morphological character sets are able to accurately resolve mammal relationships, particularly for fossil taxa for which, in most cases, molecular data is unlikely to ever become available. We tested this under a hypothetical âbest case scenarioâ by using ancestral state reconstruction (under both maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood) to infer the morphologies of fossil ancestors for all clades present in a recent comprehensive molecular phylogeny of mammals, and then seeing what effect inclusion of these predicted ancestors had on unconstrained analyses of morphological data. We found that this resulted in topologies that are highly congruent with the molecular consensus, even when simulating the effect of incomplete fossilisation. Most strikingly, several analyses recovered monophyly of clades that have never been found in previous morphology-only studies, such as Afrotheria and Laurasiatheria. Our results suggest that, at least in principle, improvements in the fossil record may be sufficient to largely reconcileÂmorphological and molecular phylogenies of mammals, even with current morphological character sets.

David ÄernÃ