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The dynamics of stem and crown groups

By Graham E Budd, Richard P. Mann

Posted 09 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/633008 (published DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz1626)

The fossil record of the origins of major groups is of great interests to many biologists, especially when the fossil record apparently conflicts with timings based on molecular clock estimates. Here we model the diversity of 'stem' (basal) and 'crown' (modern) members of groups as seen in the fossil record, using a 'birth-death model'. Under background conditions, the stem group members must diversify rapidly until the modern crown group emerges, at which point their diversity rapidly collapses, followed shortly by their extinction. Mass extinctions can disturb this pattern to create verydiverse stem groups such as the dinosaurs and trilobites. Understanding these null-hypothesis patterns is essential for framing ecological and evolutionary explanations for how major groups originate and subsequently evolve.

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