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Brusatte S.L.,American Museum of Natural History
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society

The ascent of dinosaurs in the Triassic is an exemplary evolutionary radiation, but the earliest phase of dinosaur history remains poorly understood. Body fossils of close dinosaur relatives are rare, but indicate that the dinosaur stem lineage (Dinosauromorpha) originated by the latest Anisian (ca 242-244 Ma). Here, we report footprints from the Early-Middle Triassic of Poland, stratigraphically well constrained and identified using a conservative synapomorphy-based approach, which shifts the origin of the dinosaur stem lineage back to the Early Olenekian (ca 249-251 Ma), approximately 5-9 Myr earlier than indicated by body fossils, earlier than demonstrated by previous footprint records, and just a few million years after the Permian/Triassic mass extinction (252.3 Ma). Dinosauromorph tracks are rare in all Polish assemblages, suggesting that these animals were minor faunal components. The oldest tracks are quadrupedal, a morphology uncommon among the earliest dinosauromorph body fossils, but bipedality and moderately large body size had arisen by the Early Anisian (ca 246 Ma). Integrating trace fossils and body fossils demonstrates that the rise of dinosaurs was a drawn-out affair, perhaps initiated during recovery from the Permo-Triassic extinction. Source

Perkins S.L.,American Museum of Natural History
Journal of Parasitology

Malaria has been one of the most important diseases of humans throughout history and continues to be a major public health concern. The 5 species of Plasmodium that cause the disease in humans are part of the order Haemosporida, a diverse group of parasites that all have heteroxenous life cycles, alternating between a vertebrate host and a free-flying, blood-feeding dipteran vector. Traditionally, the identification and taxonomy of these parasites relied heavily on life-history characteristics, basic morphological features, and the host species infected. However, molecular approaches to resolving the phylogeny of the group have sometimes challenged many of these traditional hypotheses. One of the greatest debates has concerned the origin of the most virulent of the human-infecting parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, with early results suggesting a close relationship with an avian parasite. Subsequent phylogenetic studies placed it firmly within the mammalian clade instead, but the avian origin hypothesis has been revived with recent genome-based analyses. The rooting of the tree of Haemosporida has also been inconsistent, and the various topologies that result certainly affect our interpretation of the history of the group. There is clearly a pressing need to obtain a much more complete degree of taxon sampling of haemosporidians, as well as a greater number of characters before confidence can be placed in any hypothesis regarding the evolutionary history of the order. There are numerous challenges moving forward, particularly for generating complete genome sequences of avian and saurian parasites. © American Society of Parasitologists 2014. Source

Siddall M.E.,American Museum of Natural History

Several large phylogenomic analyses have recently cast doubt on long-held beliefs about early metazoan phylogenetic patterns. Those data sets, and the relative bootstrap support for various controversial clades, are reanalysed in the context of parsimony, yielding results that are at considerable odds with the original likelihood or Bayesian findings. Discrepancies are considered in light of the tendency of RAxML to overestimate support values by virtue (sic) of its lazy search algorithm and its autocorrelated pseudoreplication as well as the extraordinary ability for Bayesian analyses to be led astray by missing data. In addition to standard nonparametric bootstrapping as a measure of support, a new strategy involving resampling loci as units, partition bootstrap support, is introduced as a more defensible alternative to resampling nonindependent sites. © The Willi Hennig Society 2009. © The Willi Hennig Society 2009. Source

Prieto-Marquez A.,American Museum of Natural History
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society

The late Cretaceous hadrosaurids were the most specialized and diverse clade of ornithopod dinosaurs. Parsimony and Bayesian methods were implemented to elucidate the phylogenetic relationships of all hadrosaurid species. Traditional and geometric morphometrics were applied to discover patterns of variation containing phylogenetic information. In total, 286 phylogenetically informative characters (196 cranial and 90 postcranial) were defined and documented: the most extensive character data set ever constructed for hadrosaurid dinosaurs. Of these, 136 characters were used for the first time in phylogenetic analysis of these ornithopods, and 93 were modified from those of other authors. Parsimony and the Bayesian analysis (using the Mk model without the gamma parameter) confirmed the split of hadrosaurids into Saurolophinae and Lambeosaurinae. Saurolophines included a major clade composed of the Prosaurolophus-Saurolophus and the Kritosaurus-Gryposaurus-Secernosaurus subclades. Edmontosaurus and Shantungosaurus were recovered outside the major clade of saurolophines. The Brachylophosaurus clade was recovered as the most basal clade of saurolophines in the parsimony analysis, whereas following the Bayesian analysis it was recovered as the sister clade to the Kritosaurus-Gryposaurus-Secernosaurus clade. These two analyses resulted in a Lambeosaurinae composed of a succession of Eurasian sister taxa to two major clades: the Parasaurolophus clade and the Hypacrosaurs altispinus-Corythosaurus clade. In contrast, the Bayesian analysis using the Mk model with the gamma parameter included, resulted in an unbalanced hadrosauroid tree, with a paraphyletic Saurolophinae, and with the Prosaurolophus clade, Edmontosaurus, and Shantungosaurus as successively closer sister taxa to Lambeosaurinae. Based on the strict reduced consensus tree derived from the parsimony analysis, Hadrosauridae was redefined as the clade stemming from the most recent common ancestor of Hadrosaurus foulkii and Parasaurolophus walkeri.© 2010 The Linnean Society of London. Source

Hopkins M.J.,American Museum of Natural History | Smith A.B.,Natural History Museum in London
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

How ecological and morphological diversity accrues over geological time has been much debated by paleobiologists. Evidence from the fossil record suggests that many clades reach maximal diversity early in their evolutionary history, followed by a decline in evolutionary rates as ecological space fills or due to internal constraints. Here, we apply recently developed methods for estimating rates of morphological evolution during the post-Paleozoic history of a major invertebrate clade, the Echinoidea. Contrary to expectation, rates of evolution were lowest during the initial phase of diversification following the Permo-Triassic mass extinction and increased over time. Furthermore, although several subclades show high initial rates and net decreases in rates of evolution, consistent with "early bursts" of morphological diversification, at more inclusive taxonomic levels, these bursts appear as episodic peaks. Peak rates coincided with major shifts in ecological morphology, primarily associated with innovations in feeding strategies. Despite having similar numbers of species in today's oceans, regular echinoids have accrued far less morphological diversity than irregular echinoids due to lower intrinsic rates of morphological evolution and less morphological innovation, the latter indicative of constrained or bounded evolution. These results indicate that rates of evolution are extremely heterogenous through time and their interpretation depends on the temporal and taxonomic scale of analysis. © 2015, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Source

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