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Trends Ecol Evol. 2010 Aug;25(8):434-41. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2010.05.002.

Diversity dynamics: molecular phylogenies need the fossil record.

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Museum of Paleontology and Department of Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Over the last two decades, new tools in the analysis of molecular phylogenies have enabled study of the diversification dynamics of living clades in the absence of information about extinct lineages. However, computer simulations and the fossil record show that the inability to access extinct lineages severely limits the inferences that can be drawn from molecular phylogenies. It appears that molecular phylogenies can tell us only when there have been changes in diversification rates, but are blind to the true diversity trajectories and rates of origination and extinction that have led to the species that are alive today. We need to embrace the fossil record if we want to fully understand the diversity dynamics of the living biota.

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