Most downloaded biology preprints, all time
in category paleontology
186 results found. For more information, click each entry to expand.
1,551 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Elis Newham, Pamela G Gill, Philippa Brewer, Michael J. Benton, Vincent Fernandez, Neil J Gostling, David Haberthuer, Jukka Jernvall, Tuomas Kankanpää, Aki Kallonen, Charles Navarro, Alexandra Pacureanu, Berit Zeller-Plumhoff, Kelly Richards, Kate Robson-Brown, Philipp Schneider, Heikki Suhonen, Paul Tafforeau, Katherine Williams, Ian J. Corfe
There is uncertainty regarding the timing and fossil species in which mammalian endothermy arose, with few studies of stem-mammals on key aspects of endothermy such as basal or maximum metabolic rates, or placing them in the context of living vertebrate metabolic ranges. Synchrotron X-ray imaging of incremental tooth cementum shows two Early Jurassic stem-mammals, Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium , had lifespans (a basal metabolic rate proxy) considerably longer than comparably sized living mammals, but similar to reptiles. Morganucodon also had femoral blood flow rates (a maximum metabolic rate proxy) intermediate between living mammals and reptiles. This shows maximum metabolic rates increased evolutionarily before basal rates, and that contrary to previous suggestions of a Triassic origin, Early Jurassic stem-mammals lacked the endothermic metabolism of living mammals. One Sentence Summary Surprisingly long lifespans and low femoral blood flow suggest reptile-like physiology in key Early Jurassic stem-mammals.
1,521 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The incorporation of stratigraphic data into phylogenetic analysis has a long history of debate, but is not currently standard practice for palaeontologists. Bayesian tip-dating (or morphological clock) phylogenetic methods have returned these arguments to the spotlight, but how tip-dating affects the recovery of evolutionary relationships has yet to be fully explored. Here we show, through analysis of several datasets with multiple phylogenetic methods, that topologies produced by tip-dating are outliers when compared to topologies produced by parsimony and undated Bayesian methods, which retrieve broadly similar trees. Unsurprisingly, trees recovered by tip-dating have better fit to stratigraphy than trees recovered by other methods, due to trees with better stratigraphic fit being assigned a higher prior probability. Differences in stratigraphic fit and tree topology between tip-dating and other methods appear to be concentrated in parts of the tree with weaker character signal and a stronger influence of the prior, as shown by successive deletion of the most incomplete taxa from a sauropod dataset. Tip-dating applied to Mesozoic mammals firmly rejects a monophyletic Allotheria, and strongly supports diphyly of haramiyidans, with the late Triassic Haramiyavia and Thomasia forming a clade with tritylodontids, which is distant from the middle Jurassic euharamiyidans. This result is not sensitive to the controversial age of the eutherian Juramaia. A Test of the age of Juramaia using a less restrictive prior reveals strong support from the data for an Early Cretaceous age. Our results suggest that tip-dating incorporates stratigraphic data in an intuitive way, with good stratigraphic fit a prior expectation that can be overturned by strong evidence from character data.
1,520 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Unenlagiinae is mostly recognized as a subclade of dromaeosaurids. They have the modified pedal digit II that characterize all dromeosaurids, which is typically related to predation. However, derived Laurasian dromaeosaurids (eudromaeosaurs) differ from unenlagiines in having a shorter metatarsus and pedal phalanx II-1, and more ginglymoid articular surfaces in metatarsals and pedal phalanges. Further, unenlagiines have a subarctometatarsal condition, which could have increased the mechanical efficiency during locomotion. All these discrepancies possibly reflect different locomotor and predatory habits. To evaluate this we conducted morphometric analyses and comparisons of qualitative morphological aspects. The former consisted in two phylogenetic principal component analyses, one of them based on lengths of femur, tibia and metatarsus, and width of metatarsus, and the other based on lengths of pedal phalanges. The data sampling covered several coelurosaurian and non-coelurosaurian taxa. The first analysis showed the unenlagiines close to taxa with long tibiae and long and slender metatarsi, which are features considered to provide high cursorial capacities. Instead, eudromaeosaurs are close to taxa with shorter tibiae and shorter and wider metatarsi, which can be considered with low cursorial capacities. The second analysis showed that eudromaeosaurs and unenlagiines have similar phalangeal proportions. Moreover, they share the elongation of distal phalanges, which is a feature related to the capacity of grasping. The shorter and wider metatarsus, more ginglymoid articular surfaces and a shorter pedal phalanx II-2 of eudromaeosaurs possibly allowed them to exert a greater gripping strength. Thus, they had the potential of hunting large prey. Instead, the longer and slender subarctometatarsus, lesser ginglymoid articular surfaces and a longer pedal phalanx II-2 of unenlagiines possibly gave to them greater cursorial capacities and the ability to hunt smaller and elusive prey on the ground. Thus, the different morphological evolutionary paths of dromaeosaurids lineages seem to indicate different locomotor and predatory specializations.
1,417 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Evolution of birds from non-flying theropod dinosaurs is a classic evolutionary transition, but a deeper understanding of early flight has been frustrated by disagreement on the relationships between birds (Avialae) and their closest theropod relatives. We address this through a larger, more resolved evolutionary hypothesis produced by a novel automated analysis pipeline tailored for large morphological datasets. We corroborate the grouping of dromaeosaurids + troodontids (Deinonychosauria) as the sister taxon to birds (Paraves), as well as the recovery of Anchiornithidae as basalmost avialans. Using these phylogenetic results and available data for vaned feathered paravians, maximum and minimum estimates of wing loading and specific lift calculated using ancestral state reconstruction analysis are used as proxies for the potential for powered flight through this transition. We found a broad range of paravian ancestors with estimates approaching values that are indicative of powered flight potential. This suggests that prior to the evolution of flight there was a wider extent of experimentation with wing-assisted locomotion among paravians than previously appreciated. We recovered wing loading and specific lift estimates indicating the potential for powered flight among fossil birds as well as unenlagiine and microraptorine dromaeosaurids. In the context of our phylogeny and of Mesozoic palaeogeography, our results suggest that the potential for powered flight originated three or more times from a broad range of ancestors already nearing this potential, providing a well-supported scenario for the origin of theropod flight to further explore. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
1,413 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The fossil record of crustaceans as hosts of parasites has yielded three confirmed associations: epicaridean isopod-induced swellings on Jurassic-Recent decapod crustaceans, feminization of Cretaceous and Miocene male crabs possibly caused by rhizocephalan barnacles, and presumed pentastomids on/in Silurian ostracods. Cestode platyhelminth hooks and swellings by entoniscid isopods may be recognized in the future. Relative to 2014, we report an increase of 41% to 124 fossil decapod species with epicaridean-induced swellings in the branchial chamber (ichnotaxon Kanthyloma crusta). Furthermore, using a Late Jurassic (Tithonian) decapod assemblage from Austria, we find (1) no correlation between genus abundance and prevalence of K. crusta, (2) host preference for some galatheoid taxa (as for a mid-Cretaceous assemblage from Spain), and (3) a larger median size of parasitized versus non-parasitized specimens for two selected species. The latter result may be caused by infestation throughout ontogeny rather than exclusively in juveniles and/or possible selection for the larger sex.
1,411 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Due to its completeness, the A.L. 288-1 (Lucy) skeleton has long served as the archetypal bipedal Australopithecus. However, there remains considerable debate about its limb proportions. There are three competing, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, explanations for the high humerofemoral index of A.L. 288-1: (1) a retention of proportions from an Ardipithecus-like most recent common ancestor (MRCA); (2) indication of some degree of climbing ability; (3) allometry. Recent discoveries of other partial skeletons of Australopithecus, such as those of A. sediba (MH1 and MH2) and A. afarensis (KSD-VP-1/1 and DIK-1/1), have provided new opportunities to test hypotheses of early hominin body size and limb proportions. Yet, no early hominin is as complete (>90%), as is the 3.67 Ma Little Foot (StW 573) specimen, from Sterkfontein Member 2. Here, we provide the first descriptions of its upper and lower long limb bones, as well as a comparative context of its limb proportions. As to the latter, we found that StW 573 possesses absolutely longer limb lengths than A.L. 288-1, but both skeletons show similar limb proportions. This finding seems to argue against an allometric explanation for the limb proportions of A.L. 288-1. In fact, our multivariate allometric analysis suggests that limb lengths of Australopithecus, as represented by StW 573 and A.L. 288-1, developed along a significantly different (p < 0.001) allometric scale than that which typifies modern humans and African apes. Our analyses also suggest, as have those of others, that hominin limb evolution occurred in two stages with: (1) a modest increase in lower limb length and a concurrent shortening of the antebrachium between Ardipithecus and Australopithecus, followed by (2) considerable lengthening of the lower limb along with a decrease of both upper limb elements occurring between Australopithecus and Homo sapiens.
1,404 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Image-forming compound eyes are such a valuable adaptation that similar visual systems have evolved independently across crustaceans. But if different compound eye types have evolved independently multiple times, how useful are eye structures and ommatidia morphology for resolving phylogenetic relationships? Crabs are ideal study organisms to explore these questions because they have a good fossil record extending back into the Jurassic, they possess a great variety of optical designs, and details of eye form can be compared between extant and fossil groups. True crabs, or Brachyura, have been traditionally divided into two groups based on the position of the sexual openings in males and females: the so-called Podotremata (females bearing their sexual openings on the legs), and the Eubrachyura, or higher true crabs (females bearing their sexual openings on the thorax). Although Eubrachyura appears to be monophyletic, the monophyly of podotreme crabs remains controversial and therefore requires exploration of new character systems. The earliest podotremous lineages share the plesiomorphic condition of mirror reflecting superposition eyes with most shrimp, lobsters, and anomurans (false crabs and allies). The optical mechanisms of fossil and extant podotreme groups more closely related to Eubrachyura, however, are still poorly investigated. To better judge the phylogenetic utility of compound eye form, we investigated the distribution of eye types in fossil and extant podotreme crabs. Our findings suggest the plesiomorphic mirror eyes\---|seen in most decapod crustaceans including the earliest true crabs\---|has been lost in several podotremes and in eubrachyurans. We conclude that the secondary retention of larval apposition eyes has existed in eubrachyurans and some podotremes since at least the Early Cretaceous, and that the distribution of eye types among true crabs supports a paraphyletic podotreme grade, as suggested by recent molecular and morphological phylogenetic studies. We also review photoreceptor structure and visual pigment evolution, currently known in crabs exclusively from eubrachyuran representatives. These topics are critical for future expansion of research on podotremes to deeply investigate the homology of eye types across crabs.
1,384 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
We display a detailed description of mimetic muscles in extinct human species, framed in comparative and phylogenetic contexts. Using known facial landmarks, we assessed the arrangement of muscles of facial expression in Homo sapiens, neanderthalensis, erectus, heidelbergensis and ergaster. In modern humans, several perioral muscles are proportionally smaller in size (levator labii superioris, zygomaticus minor, zygomaticus major and triangularis) and/or located more medially (levator labii superioris, zygomaticus minor and quadratus labii inferioris) than in other human species. As mimetic musculature is examined in the most ancient specimens up to the most recent, there is a general trend towards an increase in size of corrugator supercillii and triangularis. Homo ergaster's mimetic musculature closely resembles modern Homo, both in size and in location; furthermore, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis share many muscular features. The extinct human species had an elaborate and highly graded facial communication system, but it remained qualitatively different from that reported in modern Homo. Compared with other human species, Homo sapiens clearly exhibits a lower degree of facial expression, possibly correlated with more sophisticated social behaviours and with enhanced speech capabilities. The presence of anatomical variation among species of the genus Homo raises important questions about the possible taxonomic value of mimetic muscles.
1,359 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Endochondral bone is the main internal skeletal tissue of nearly all osteichthyans—the group comprising more than 60,000 living species of bony fishes and tetrapods. Chondrichthyans (sharks and their kin) are the living sister group of osteichthyans and have cartilaginous endoskeletons, long considered the ancestral condition for all jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes). The absence of bone in modern jawless fishes and the absence of endochondral ossification in early fossil gnathostomes appears to lend support to this conclusion. Here we report the discovery of extensive endochondral bone in Minjinia turgenensis , a new genus and species of ‘placoderm’-like fish from the Early Devonian (Pragian) of western Mongolia described using x-ray computed microtomography (XR-µCT). The fossil consists of a partial skull roof and braincase with anatomical details providing strong evidence of placement in the gnathostome stem group. However, its endochondral space is filled with an extensive network of fine trabeculae resembling the endochondral bone of osteichthyans. Phylogenetic analyses place this new taxon as a proximate sister group of the gnathostome crown. These results provide direct support for theories of generalised bone loss in chondrichthyans. Furthermore, they revive theories of a phylogenetically deeper origin of endochondral bone and its absence in chondrichthyans as a secondary condition. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
1,358 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Once considered "weird wonders" of the Cambrian, the emblematic Burgess Shale animals Anomalocaris and Opabinia are now recognized as lower stem-group euarthropods. Anomalocaris and its relatives (radiodonts) had a worldwide distribution and survived until at least the Devonian, whereas - despite intense study - Opabinia remains the only formally described opabiniid to date. Here we reinterpret a fossil from the Wheeler Formation of Utah as a new opabiniid, KUMIP 314087. By visualizing the sample of phylogenetic topologies in treespace, our results fortify support for the position of KUMIP 314087 beyond the nodal support traditionally applied. Our phylogenetic evidence expands opabiniids to multiple Cambrian Stages spanning approximately five million years. Our results underscore the power of treespace visualization for resolving imperfectly preserved fossils and expanding the known diversity and spatiotemporal ranges within the euarthropod lower stem group.
1,331 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Peter D. Heintzman, Grant D Zazula, Ross D.E. MacPhee, Eric Scott, James A. Cahill, Brianna K McHorse, Joshua D. Kapp, Mathias Stiller, Matthew J Wooller, Ludovic Orlando, John R Southon, Duane G Froese, Beth Shapiro
The extinct New World stilt-legged, or NWSL, equids constitute a perplexing group of Pleistocene horses endemic to North America. Their slender distal limb bones resemble those of Asiatic asses, such as the Persian onager. Previous palaeogenetic studies, however, have suggested a closer relationship to caballine horses than to Asiatic asses. Here, we report complete mitochondrial and partial nuclear genomes from NWSL equids from across their geographic range. Although multiple NWSL equid species have been named, our palaeogenomic and morphometric analyses support the idea that there was only a single species of middle to late Pleistocene NWSL equid, and demonstrate that it falls outside of crown group Equus. We therefore propose a new genus, Haringtonhippus, for the sole species H. francisci. Our combined genomic and phenomic approach to resolving the systematics of extinct megafauna will allow for an improved understanding of the full extent of the terminal Pleistocene extinction event.
1,330 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Three new chasmosaurines from the Kirtland Formation (~75.0 - 73.4 Ma), New Mexico, form morphological and stratigraphic intermediates between Pentaceratops (~74.7 - 75Ma, Fruitland Formation, New Mexico) and Anchiceratops (~72 - 71Ma, Horseshoe Canyon Formation, Alberta). The new specimens exhibit gradual enclosure of the parietal embayment that characterizes Pentaceratops, providing support for the phylogenetic hypothesis that Pentaceratops and Anchiceratops are closely related. This stepwise change of morphologic characters observed in chasmosaurine taxa that do not overlap stratigraphically is supportive of evolution by anagenesis. Recently published hypotheses that place Pentaceratops and Anchiceratops into separate clades are not supported. This phylogenetic relationship demonstrates unrestricted movement of large-bodied taxa between hitherto purported northern and southern provinces in the Late Campanian, weakening support for the hypothesis of extreme faunal provincialism in the Late Cretaceous Western Interior.
1,326 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The group Tapejaridae forms a clade of toothless pterosaurs easily recognized by their premaxillary sagittal crests and particularly large nasoantorbital fenestrae. The tapejarids represent the most representative group of pterosaurs from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of the Araripe Basin (Northeastern Brazil). The holotype of the large tapejarid Tupandactylus imperator Campos and Kellner, 1997 is known by two main slabs from the New Olinda Member of the Crato Formation, however, only one of the slabs containing the sagittally bipartite skull is referred to the holotype of Tupandactylus imperator, remain the counter-slab be properly described. The cotype is fragmented in several broken pieces and presents a significative number of cranial elements. A medial internasal septum completely preserved inside the nasoantorbital fenestra is reported for the first time for pterosaurs. The exceptional preservation of a collagenous septum and other integumentary structures visible in the cotype specimen is extremely rare and supports the concept of the unusual pattern of soft tissue observed in the fossils from the Crato Konservat-Lagerstätte, specially pterosaurs. Herein is presented the description of the cotype of Tupandactylus imperator, in complementation to the previously designated slab of the holotype of this tapejarid species. The occurrence of casques in pterosaurs is supported by comparative anatomy with the bird galliform Pauxi (Cracidae). Besides that, it is discussed on the skull with extravagant cranial crests of Tupandactylus imperator and the significance of the associated soft tissues and other cranial integuments, which indicates an expressive morphological and taxonomic diversity among the tapejarid pterosaurs.
1,295 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Reconstructing the behavior of extinct species is challenging, particularly for those with no living analogues. However, damage preserved as paleopathologies on bone can record how an animal moved in life, potentially reflecting behavioral patterns. Here, we assess hypothesized etiologies of pathology in a pelvis and associated right femur of a Smilodon fatalis saber-toothed cat, one of the best-studied species from the Pleistocene-age Rancho La Brea asphalt seeps, California, USA, using visualization by computed tomography (CT). The pelvis exhibits massive destruction of the right hip socket that was interpreted, for nearly a century, to have developed from trauma and infection. CT imaging reveals instead that the pathological distortions characterize chronic remodeling that began at birth and led to degeneration of the joint over the animal's life. These results suggest that this individual suffered from hip dysplasia, a congenital condition common in domestic dogs and cats. This individual reached adulthood but could not have hunted properly nor defended territory on its own, likely relying on a social group for feeding and protection. While extant social felids are rare, these fossils and others with similar pathologies are consistent with a spectrum of social strategies in Smilodon supported by a predominance of previous studies.
1,286 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Limb length, cursoriality and speed have long been areas of significant interest in theropod paleobiology as locomotory capacity, especially running ability, is critical in not just in prey pursuit but also to avoid become prey oneself. One aspect that is traditionally overlooked is the impact of allometry on running ability and the limiting effect of large body size. Since several different non-avian theropod lineages have each independently evolved body sizes greater than any known terrestrial carnivorous mammal, ~1000kg or more, the effect that such larger mass has on movement ability and energetics is an area with significant implications for Mesozoic paleoecology. Here using expansive datasets, incorporating several different metrics to estimate body size, limb length and running speed, to calculate the effects of allometry running We test both on traditional metrics used to evaluate cursoriality in non-avian theropods such as distal limb length, relative hindlimb length as well as comparing the energetic cost savings of relative hindlimb elongation between members of the Tyrannosauridae and more basal megacarnivores such as Allosauroids or Ceratosauridae. We find that once the limiting effects of body size increase is incorporated, no commonly used metric including the newly suggested distal limb index (Tibia + Metatarsus/ Femur length) shows a significant correlation to top speed. The data also shows a significant split between large and small bodied theropods in terms of maximizing running potential suggesting two distinct strategies for promoting limb elongation based on the organisms’ size. For small and medium sized theropods increased leg length seems to correlate with a desire to increase top speed while amongst larger taxa it corresponds more closely to energetic efficiency and reducing foraging costs. We also find, using 3D volumetric mass estimates, that the Tyrannosauridae show significant cost of transport savings compared to more basal clades, indicating reduced energy expenditures during foraging and likely reduced need for hunting forays. This suggests that amongst theropods while no one strategy dictated hindlimb evolution. Amongst smaller bodied taxa the competing pressures of being both a predator and a prey item dominant while larger ones, freed from predation pressure, seek to maximize foraging ability. We also discuss the implications both for interactions amongst specific clades and Mesozoic paleobiology and paleoecological reconstructions as a whole
1,277 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
We employed the widely-tested biophysiological modeling software, Niche Mapper™ to investigate the metabolic function of Late Triassic dinosaurs Plateosaurus and Coelophysis during global greenhouse conditions. We tested them under a variety of assumptions about resting metabolic rate, evaluated within six microclimate models that bound paleoenvironmental conditions at 12° N paleolatitude, as determined by sedimentological and isotopic proxies for climate within the Chinle Formation of the southwestern United States. Sensitivity testing of metabolic variables and simulated “metabolic chamber” analyses support elevated “ratite-like” metabolic rates and intermediate “monotreme-like” core temperature ranges in these species of early saurischian dinosaur. Our results suggest small theropods may have needed partial to full epidermal insulation in temperate environments, while fully grown prosauropods would have likely been heat stressed in open, hot environments and should have been restricted to cooler microclimates such as dense forests (under any vegetative cover) or those seen at higher latitudes and elevations. This is in agreement with the Late Triassic fossil record and may have contributed to the latitudinal gap in the Triassic prosauropod record.
1,263 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Ongoing anthropogenic alterations of the biosphere have shifted emphasis in conservation biology from individual species to entire ecosystems. Modern measures of ecosystem change, however, lack the extended temporal scales necessary to forecast future change under increasingly stressful environmental conditions. Accordingly, the assessment and reconstruction of ecosystem dynamics during previous intervals of environmental stress and climate change in deep time has garnered increasing attention. The nature of the fossil record, though, raises questions about the difficulty of reconstructing paleocommunity and paleoecosystem-level dynamics. In this study, we assess the reliability of such reconstructions by simulating the fossilization of a highly threatened and disturbed modern ecosystem, a Caribbean coral reef. Using a high-resolution coral reef food web from Jamaica, we compare system structures of the modern and simulated fossil reefs, including guild richness and evenness, trophic level distribution, predator dietary breadth, food chain lengths, and modularity. Results indicate that despite the loss of species, guilds, and trophospecies interactions, particularly zooplankton and other soft-bodied organisms, the overall guild diversity, structure, and modularity of the reef ecosystem remained intact. These results have important implications for the integrity of fossil food web studies and coral reef conservation, demonstrating that fossil reef communities can be used to understand reef community dynamics during past regimes of environmental change.
1,260 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Background: Little is known about the long-term patterns of body size evolution in Crocodylomorpha, the > 200-million-year-old group that includes living crocodylians and their extinct relatives. Extant crocodylians are mostly large-bodied (3-7 m) predators. However, extinct crocodylomorphs exhibit a wider range of phenotypes, and many of the earliest taxa were much smaller (< 1.2 m). This suggests a pattern of size increase through time that could be caused by multi-lineage evolutionary trends of size increase or by selective extinction of small-bodied species. In this study, we characterise patterns of crocodylomorph body size evolution using a model fitting-approach (with cranial measurements serving as proxies). We also estimate body size disparity through time and quantitatively test hypotheses of biotic and abiotic factors as potential drivers of crocodylomorph body size evolution. Results: Crocodylomorphs reached an early peak in body size disparity during the Late Jurassic, and underwent essentially continually decreases in disparity since then. A multi-peak Ornstein-Uhlenbeck model outperforms all other evolutionary models fitted to our data (including both uniform and non-uniform), indicating that the macroevolutionary dynamics of crocodylomorph body size are better described within the concept of an adaptive landscape, with most body size variation emerging after shifts to new macroevolutionary regimes (analogous to adaptive zones). We did not find support for a consistent evolutionary trend towards larger sizes among lineages (i.e., Cope's rule), or strong correlations of body size with climate. Instead, the intermediate to large body sizes of some crocodylomorphs are better explained by group-specific adaptations. In particular, the evolution of a more aquatic lifestyle (especially marine) correlates with increases in average body size, though not without exceptions. Conclusions: Shifts between macroevolutionary regimes provide a better explanation of crocodylomorph body size evolution than do climatic factors, suggesting a central role for lineage-specific adaptations rather than climatic forcing. Shifts leading to larger body sizes occurred in most aquatic and semi-aquatic groups. This, combined with extinctions of groups occupying smaller body size regimes (particularly during the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic), gave rise to the upward-shifted body size distribution of extant crocodylomorphs compared to their smaller-bodied terrestrial ancestors.
1,196 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
Phylogenies may be modelled using 'birth-death' models for speciation and extinction, but even when a homogeneous rate of diversification is used, survivorship biases can generate remarkable rate heterogeneities through time. One such bias has been termed the 'push of the past', by which the length of time a clade has survived is conditioned on the rate of diversification that happened to pertain at its origin. This creates the illusion of a secular rate slow-down through time that is, rather, a reversion to the mean. Here we model the controls on the push of the past, and the effect it has on clade origination times, and show that it largely depends on underlying extinction rates. An extra effect increasing early rates of lineage generation is also seen in large clades. These biases are important but relatively neglected influences on many aspects of diversification patterns, such as diversification spikes after mass extinctions and at the origins of clades; they also influence rates of fossilisation, changes in rates of phenotypic evolution and even molecular clocks. These inevitable features of surviving and/or large clades should thus not be generalised to the diversification process as a whole without additional study of small and extinct clades.
1,190 downloads bioRxiv paleontology
The mere existence of speciation and extinction make macroevolutionary processes possible. Speciation and extinction introduce discontinuities in the microevolutionary change within lineages by initiating, disrupting, and terminating the continuity of species lineages. Within a clade, speciation and extinction become potent means of macroevolution in and of themselves. This process, termed species selection, is a macroevolutionary analogue of natural selection, with species playing an analogous part akin to that played by organisms in microevolution. That said, it has proven difficult to think about levels of selection. The concept of species sorting was introduced to help our thinking on this issue by identifying two aspects inherent in hierarchical systems can confuse our attempts to understand them: uncertainty in the level that selection acts and uncertainty about if the pattern of selection is in fact caused at all. Thanks to insights from evolutionary transitions in individuality, we now know more about how to identify the level of selection and how to parse the causal structure in hierarchical evolutionary circumstances. We know that if the fitness of organisms causes the fitness of more inclusive species then they must covary. However, there is no evidence of such a covariance between fitnesses at these two levels. This covariance is just not observed; neither between cells and organisms nor between organisms and species. Rather, speciation and extinction rates appear to be completely divorced from organismal fitness. With this insight, the concept of species sorting shrinks so that it only covers the two processes of species selection and drift. I argue that we are better off focusing on understanding the processes of species selection and drift and that there is therefore no further need for the concept of species sorting.
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