Always ready for a review, I noticed in the rat/rabbit clade of the large reptile tree (LRT, 1272 taxa) canine teeth (and sometimes nearby others) were lost creating a diastema in seven subclades (Fig. 1). The biggest worry was the apparent reappearance of a full arcade of teeth in highly derived taxa, like Paulchaffotia and Carpolestes, after a several clades without a full arcade (including rodents and the aye-aye). Generally, that’s not supposed to happen. So I reviewed all the data and made a helpful image (Fig. 2).
After trying and failing to force all taxa with a diastema together, the LRT recovered a cladogram in which canine teeth disappeared creating a diastema seven times by convergence in the rabbit/rodent clade (Fig. 1). Apparently unknown taxa with small canines linked the last taxa with canines (hedgehogs) with the first taxa with canines beyond rodents (multituberculates).
You might remember
that marsupials and large placental ungulates also produced taxa with a similar diastema. So it is a common convergent trait.
When charts don’t help, sometimes pictures do.
Here (Fig. 2) are several taxa from the the subset cladogram above (Fig. 1) so you can see for yourself how evolution works in tiny steps that slowly add up to large changes. Particularly interesting here is the central place of hedgehogs (with a full arcade of teeth) basal to higher clades with a full arcade of teeth alongside yet another clade or two with lost canines (diastema).
The rodent-like ‘primates’ Ignacius, Plesiadapis and Daubentonia (Figs. 1, 2) are more closely related to rodents in the LRT (contra Gunnell et al. 2018.) That’s heresy, still waiting to be confirmed or refuted by testing by other workers. Note how similar Ignacius is to the hedgehog, Erinaceus (Fig. 3).
Gunnell GF et al. (9 co-authors) 2018. Fossil lemurs from Egypt and Kenya suggest an African origin for Madagacar’s aye-aye. Nature Communications 9(3193).