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Syst Biol. 2006 Jun;55(3):512-21.

Uncertainty in the age of fossils and the stratigraphic fit to phylogenies.

Author information

1
CONICET, Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, Av. Fontana 140, Trelew 9100, Chubut, Argentina. dpol@mef.org.ar

Abstract

The ages of first appearance of fossil taxa in the stratigraphic record are inherently associated to an interval of error or uncertainty, rather than being precise point estimates. Contrasting this temporal information with topologies of phylogenetic relationships is relevant to many aspects of evolutionary studies. Several indices have been proposed to compare the ages of first appearance of fossil taxa and phylogenies. For computing most of these indices, the ages of first appearance of fossil taxa are currently used as point estimates, ignoring their associated errors or uncertainties. The effect of age uncertainty on measures of stratigraphic fit to phylogenies is explored here for two indices based on the extension of ghost lineages (MSM* and GER). A solution based on randomization of the ages of terminal taxa is implemented, resulting in a range of possible values for measures of stratigraphic fit to phylogenies, rather than in a precise but arbitrary stratigraphic fit value. Sample cases show that ignoring the age uncertainty of fossil taxa can produce misleading results when comparing the stratigraphic fit of competing phylogenetic hypotheses. Empirical test cases of alternative phylogenies of two dinosaur groups are analyzed through the randomization procedure proposed here.

PMID:
16861213
DOI:
10.1080/10635150600755446
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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