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Syst Biol. 2003 Jun;52(3):403-22.

Combined support for wholesale taxic atavism in gavialine crocodylians.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA. johnga@citrus.ucr.edu

Erratum in

  • Syst Biol. 2003 Oct;52(5):734.


Morphological and molecular data sets favor robustly supported, contradictory interpretations of crocodylian phylogeny. A longstanding perception in the field of systematics is that such significantly conflicting data sets should be analyzed separately. Here we utilize a combined approach, simultaneous analyses of all relevant character data, to summarize common support and to reconcile discrepancies among data sets. By conjoining rather than separating incongruent classes of data, secondary phylogenetic signals emerge from both molecular and morphological character sets and provide solid evidence for a unified hypothesis of crocodylian phylogeny. Simultaneous analyses of four gene sequences and paleontological data suggest that putative adaptive convergences in the jaws of gavialines (gavials) and tomistomines (false gavials) offer character support for a grouping of these taxa, making Gavialinae an atavistic taxon. Simple new methods for measuring the influence of extinct taxa on topological support indicate that in this vertebrate order fossils generally stabilize relationships and accentuate hidden phylogenetic signals. Remaining inconsistencies in minimum length trees, including concentrated hierarchical patterns of homoplasy and extensive gaps in the fossil record, indicate where future work in crocodylian systematics should be directed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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