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Syst Biol. 2007 Jun;56(3):369-88.

Fossils, molecules, divergence times, and the origin of lissamphibians.

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Comparative Osteohistology, UMR CNRS 7179, Université Paris 6, Paris, France.


A review of the paleontological literature shows that the early dates of appearance of Lissamphibia recently inferred from molecular data do not favor an origin of extant amphibians from temnospondyls, contrary to recent claims. A supertree is assembled using new Mesquite modules that allow extinct taxa to be incorporated into a time-calibrated phylogeny with a user-defined geological time scale. The supertree incorporates 223 extinct species of lissamphibians and has a highly significant stratigraphic fit. Some divergences can even be dated with sufficient precision to serve as calibration points in molecular divergence date analyses. Fourteen combinations of minimal branch length settings and 10 random resolutions for each polytomy give much more recent minimal origination times of lissamphibian taxa than recent studies based on a phylogenetic analyses of molecular sequences. Attempts to replicate recent molecular date estimates show that these estimates depend strongly on the choice of calibration points, on the dating method, and on the chosen model of evolution; for instance, the estimate for the date of the origin of Lissamphibia can lie between 351 and 266 Mya. This range of values is generally compatible with our time-calibrated supertree and indicates that there is no unbridgeable gap between dates obtained using the fossil record and those using molecular evidence, contrary to previous suggestions.

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