False positives in an LRT subset lacking fossil taxa

I think you’ll find this phylogenetic experiment both
gut-wrenching and extremely illuminating. While reading this, keep in mind the importance of having/recovering the correct outgroup for every clade and every node. That can only be ascertained by including a wide gamut of taxa—including fossils. Adding taxa brings you closer and closer to echoing actual events in deep time while minimizing the negative effects of not including relevant/pertinent taxa.

Today you’ll see
what excluding fossil taxa (Fig. 1) will do to an established nearly fully resolved cladogram, the large reptile tree (LRT, 1318 taxa). Earlier we’ve subdivided the LRT before, when there were fewer taxa in total. Here we delete all fossil taxa (except Gephyrostegus, a basal amniote used to anchor the cladogram because PAUP designates the first taxon the outgroup).

PAUP recovers 250+ trees
on 264 (~20%) undeleted extant taxa.

  1. Overall lepidosaurs, turtles, birds and mammals nest within their respective clades.
  2. Overall lepidosaurs nest with archosaurs and turtles with mammals, contra the LRT, which splits turtles + lepidosaurs and mammals + archosaurs as a basal amniote dichotomy.
  3. Overall mammals are not the first clade to split from the others, contra traditional studies. All pre-mammal amniotes in the LRT are extinct.
  4. Within lepidosaurs, the highly derived horned lizards and chameleons are basal taxa, contra the LRT, which nests Iguana as a basal squamate.
  5. Within lepidosaurs, geckos no longer nest with snakes, contra the LRT.
  6. Crocodiles nest with kiwis, as in the LRT, but it is still amazing that PAUP recovered this over such a large phylogenetic distance.
  7. Within aves, so few taxa are fossils in the LRT that the tree topology is very close to the original.
  8. Within mammals marsupials no longer nest between monotremes and placentals
  9. …and because of this carnivores split off next.
  10. Contra the LRT, hippos are derived from the cat and dog clade, all derived from weasels.
  11. Within mammals odontocetes no longer nest with tenrecs.
  12. Within mammals mysticetes nest with odontocetes, no longer nest with hippos.
  13. Contra the LRT, whales are derived from manatees and elephants.
Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on Amniota (=Reptilia) with all fossil taxa deleted. Gephyrostegus, a Westphalian fossil is included as the outgroup.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on Amniota (=Reptilia) with all fossil taxa deleted. Gephyrostegus, a Westphalian fossil is included as the outgroup.

BTW,
here are the results based on using the basal fish, Cheirolepis, as an outgroup:

    1. The caecilian, Dermophis, nests as the basalmost tetrapod.
    2. Followed by the frog and salamander.
    3. Squamates branch off next with legless lizards and burrowing snakes at a basalmost node. Terrestrial snakes are derived from burrowing snakes. Gekkos split next followed by varanids and skinks. Another clade begins with the tegu and Lacerta, followed by iguanids. Sphenodon nests between the horned lizards, Moloch and Phyrnosoma + the chameleon.
    4. Turtles split off next with the soft-shell turtle, Trionyx, at the base.
    5. One clade of mammals split off next with echidnas first, then elephant shrews and tenrecs, followed by a clade including the pangolin, seals and other basal carnivores. Cats and dogs split off next followed by hippos, then artiodactyls, perissodactyls, the hyrax, elephants, manatees, mysticetes and odontocetes.
    6. Another clade of mammals include edentates, followed by tree shrews and glires, followed by (colugos + bats) + primates, followed by another clade of basal carnivores, followed by marsupials.
    7. The final clade is Crocodylus + extant birds, which are not well resolved and split apart into two major clades with some subclades maintaining their topology while other clades split apart. So the archosaurs nest together.

This test emphasizes the need for the inclusion of fossil taxa in order to recover a gradual accumulation of traits at all nodes, which takes us closer to actual evolutionary patterns in deep time.

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The short-faced bear (Arctodus) is a giant wolverine in the LRT.

Yesterday we looked at three bears, Ursus, Arctodus (Fig. 1) and Ailuropoda (the polar bear, the short-faced bear and the panda bear). They do not form a single bear clade in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1299 taxa), but each is more closely related to small weasels and grew to bear-size by convergence.

For instance,
Arctodus is most closely related to today’s wolverine (Gulo gulo, Figs. 1, 2) among tested taxa, and the similarities are immediately apparent. Have they ever been tested together before? Let me know if this is so.

Figure 1. Arctodus (shor-faced bear) skeleton compared to the smaller Gulo (wolverine) skeleton. Both have similar proportions. Arctodus is larger than 3m, while Gulo is about 1m in length.

Figure 1. Arctodus (shor-faced bear) skeleton compared to the smaller Gulo (wolverine) skeleton. Both have similar proportions. Arctodus is larger than 3m, while Gulo is about 1m in length.

Arctodus simus (Leidy 1854; Cope 1874; up to 3 to 3.7m tall) is the extinct short-faced bear, one of the largest terrestrial mammalian carnivores of all time. Long limbs made it a fast predator. Being related to the wolverine made it short-tempered and dangerous.

Figure 2. Long-legged Gulo, the wolverine, is most similar to Arctodus, the short-faced bear in the LRT.

Figure 2. Long-legged Gulo, the wolverine, is most similar to Arctodus, the short-faced bear in the LRT. That’s a penile bone, not a prepubis.

Gulo gulo (Linneaus 1758; up to 110 cm in length) is the extant wolverine, a ferocious predator resembling a small bear. Note the tail length is midway between the long tail of weasels and the short tail of birds.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on the Carnivora with tan tones on the bears newly added.

Figure 3. Subset of the LRT focusing on the Carnivora with tan tones on the bears newly added.

The red panda
(Ailurus) was also added to the LRT (Fig. 3) and, to no one’s surprise, nests with the raccoon, Procyon apart from the giant panda.

Figure 4. Gulo skull in lateral and dorsal views. Compare to Arctodus in figure 5.

Figure 4. Gulo skull in lateral and dorsal views. Compare to Arctodus in figure 5. The male skull has the larger and longer parasagittal crest.

The skulls of Gulo and Arctodus
(Figs. 4, 5) despite their size differences, are quite similar. Both display sexual dimorphism.

Figure 5. Arctodus (short-faced bear) skull in lateral view. Compare to figure 4.

Figure 5. Arctodus (short-faced bear) skull in lateral view. Compare to figure 4.

Taxon inclusion
sheds light on phylogenetic interrelationships.

If you have an interest in wolverine evolution,
I suggest you use the keyword “Gulo” or you’ll end up learning about Marvel’s superhero, also named Wolverine.

References
Cope ED 1879. The cave bear of California. American Naturalist 13:791.
Leidy 1854. Remarks on Sus americanus or Harlanus americanus, and on other extinct mammals. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 7:90.
Linnaeus C 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.

wiki/Gulo
wiki/Short-faced_bear

The most basal mammal in the LRT: Megazostrodon

I thought for many years
that Megazostrodon was known from only a fragment of skull, lacking both the anterior and posterior parts.

Then somehow this paper popped up on the Internet
Gow 1986 illustrated the skull of Megazostrodon (Fig. 1; BPI/1/4983; Crompton & Jenkins, 1968; Latest Triassic; 200 mya). Even without this skull data the large reptile tree (LRT, 1293 taxa) nested Megazostrodon at the base of the Mammalia. There is little  argument among paleontologists that this taxon is a close sister to the last common ancestor of all living mammals.

Often wrongly associated
with Morganucodon, the two are phylogenetically separated from one another by tiny Hadrocodium in the LRT. In Megazostrodon the zygomatic arch is straight (without the ascending arch). The skull lacks a sagittal crest.  As in modern marsupials, carnivores, primates and tree shrews the teeth have a standard incisor, canine, premolar and molar appearance. The permanent molars occlude precisely. Uniquely (as far as I know), the dentary has a coronoid boss and a coronoid process.

Figure 1. Megazostrodon skull in several views. Drawings from Gow 1986. Colors applied here.

Figure 1. Megazostrodon skull in several views. Drawings from Gow 1986. Colors applied here. The upper molars are worn down.

The large reptile tree
(Fig. 2) presents a simple, validated topology of mammals and their ancestors based on hundreds of traits, very few of them dental. It differs in nearly every regard from the Close et al. 2015 study, which employs many dental taxa.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on the Kynodontia and Mammalia. Non-eutherian taxa in red were tested in the LRT but not included because they reduce resolution. Eutherian taxa in red include a basal pangolin and derived xenarthran, clades that extend beyond the bottom of this graphic. The pink clade proximal to mammals was considered mammalian by Lautenschlager et al. due to a convergent mammalian-type jaw joint.

Figure 3. Subset of the LRT focusing on the Kynodontia and Mammalia. Non-eutherian taxa in red were tested in the LRT but not included because they reduce resolution. Eutherian taxa in red include a basal pangolin and derived xenarthran, clades that extend beyond the bottom of this graphic. The pink clade proximal to mammals was considered mammalian by Lautenschlager et al. due to a convergent mammalian-type jaw joint.

The first time I reconstructed Megazostrodon
(Fig. 4) the skull looked legit, and was approved by cynodont expert Jim Hopson, but it had some problems. I’m glad to finally get better data on this, that resolves scoring problems around this node.

Figure 1. Megazostrodon, an early mammal, along with Hadrocodium, a Jurassic tiny mammal.

Figure 4. Megazostrodon, an a Jurassic mammal, along with Hadrocodium, a Jurassic tiny mammal. The Megazostrodon skull shown here is not correct.

On a side note:
Wikipedia reports,Tinodon (Marsh 1887; YMP11843) is an extinct genus of Late Jurassic mammal from the Morrison Formation. It is of uncertain affinities, being most recently recovered as closer to therians than eutriconodonts but less so than allotherians.” 

Figure 1. Tinodon is best represented by an incomplete mandible with affinities to basal mammals.

Figure 5. Tinodon is best represented by an incomplete mandible with affinities to basal mammals and basal metatherians. Image from Morphobank.

Too few characters are present here
to add it to the large reptile tree, but if I have restored the missing parts correctly, then it is close to the base of the Mammalia and Theria near Megazostrodon.

References
Close RA, Friedman M. Lloyd GT and Benson RBJ 2015. Evidence for a mid-Jurassic adaptive radiation in mammals. Current Biology. 25 (16): 2137–2142. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.06.047PMID 26190074.
Crompton AW and Jenkins FA Jr 1968. Molar occlusion in late Triassic mammals, Biological Review, 43 1968:427-458.
Gow CE 1986. A new skull of Megazostrodon ( Mammalia, Triconodonta) from the Elliot Formation (Lower Jurassic) of Southern Africa. Palaeontologia Africana 26(2):13–22.
Marsh OC 1887. American Jurassic mammals. The American Journal of Science, series 3 33(196):327-348

wiki/Megazostrodon

 

Asioryctes: Re-restoring a pes, re-nesting a taxon

I should have noticed this pairing earlier.
Evidently it escaped everyone else’s notice, too. Asioryctes nemegetensis (Kielan-Jaworowska 1975, 1984; Figs. 1,2; middle Late Cretaceous, Djadokhta Formation, ~85 mya) is a good match for the living bandicoot, Perameles. Maga and Beck 2017 nested Asioryctes with the coeval Ukhaatherium, and the extant Perameles with another bandicoot, Echymipera.

FIgure 1. Skulls of Asioryctes, Perameles and Macrotis compared.

FIgure 1. Skulls of Asioryctes, Perameles and Macrotis compared. The overall shapes are similar, and so are the teeth, and other details. Historically the feet have been different, and that’s our starting point. 

Figure 2. Left: original restoration of Asioryctes pes. Colors added. Right: New restoration based on phylogenetic proximity to Perameles and other marsupial taxa with vestigial digit 1 and gracile digits 2 and 3 (grooming claws).

Figure 2. Left: original restoration of Asioryctes pes. Colors added. Right: New restoration based on phylogenetic proximity to Perameles and other marsupial taxa with vestigial digit 1 and gracile digits 2 and 3 (grooming claws). 

The first three taxa
are members of the large reptile tree (LRT, 1272 taxa), but the first two don’t nest together. The LRT now nests Asioryctes with Perameles and Macrotis, two extant bandicoots. Ukhaatherium nests with the basalmost members of Theria several nodes earlier.

One of the problems with this
is the original restoration of the Asioryctes pes, based on disarticulated parts (Kielan-Jaworowska 1975; Fig. 2). The REAL problem is no other mammal has gracile lateral metatarsals. Sans the pes, the skull nests with Perameles and Macrotis (Fig. 1), taxa with only a vestige pedal digit 1 and reduced digits 2 and 3.

Hmmm.
That opens up a possibility not foreseen by Kielan-Jaworowska.

A new restoration
of the illustrated elements (Fig. 2) identifies the slender metatarsals as 2 and 3. The tarsal elements are all present (contra Kielan-Jaworowska 1975) just reidentified here in accord with a standard bandicoot foot.

And… so… for the first time
we can see a predecessor taxon demonstrating a transitional morphology to the reduced pedal digits 1–3 seen in bandicoots and kangaroos.

References
Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire E 1803. Note sur les genres Phascolomis et Perameles, nouveaux genres d’animaux à bourse. Bulletin des Sciences par la Société Philomathique de Paris 80, 49–150.
Kielan-Jaworowska Z 1975. 
Preliminary description of two new eutherian genera from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia. Palaeontologia Polonica 33:5-15.
Kielan-Jaworowska, Z 1984. Evolution of the therian mammals in the Late Cretaceous of Asia. Part VII. Synopsis. Palaeontologia Polonica 4:173-183. online pdf
Maga AM and Beck RMD 2017. Skeleton of an unusual, cat-sized marsupial relative (Metatheria: Marsupialiformes) from the middle Eocene (Lutetian: 44-43 million years ago) of Turkey. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0181712

wiki/Asioryctes
wiki/Perameles
wiki/Macrotis

Cladogram of the Mammalia (subset of the LRT)

A summary today…
featuring a long cladogram (Fig. 1), a subset from the large reptile tree (LRT, 1259 taxa) focusing on the Mammalia. This is how this LRT subset stands at present. Not much has changed other than the few node changes from the past week.

The transition from Prototheria to Theria (Metatheria)
includes long-snouted taxa, like Ukhaatherium. Nearly all Prototheria are also long-snouted (Cifelliodon is the current sole exception).

The transition from Metatheria to Eutheria (simplified)
includes small omnivorous didelphids arising from the carnivorous/herbivorous split among larger metatherians. Basal Carnivora, the most basal eutherian clade, are also omnivores. Caluromys, the extant wooly opossum, has a pouch, but nests at the base of all placental taxa (the LRT tests only skeletal traits), so it represents the size and shape of the earliest placentals (contra O’Leary et al. 2013)… basically didelphids without pouches, and fewer teeth, generally (but not always).

Basal members of most placental clades
are all Caluromys-like taxa, with a rapid radiation in the Late Triassic/Early Jurassic generating most of the major placental clades in the LRT (Fig. 1). Larger members of each of these placental clades appeared in the fossil record only after the K-T extinction event. So hardy where these basal taxa, that many still live to this day.

As shown earlier, higher eutheria are born able to able to walk or swim. They are no longer helpless with arboreal parents (tree-climbing goats the exception). Basal eutherians reproduce more like their metatherian ancestors, with helpless infants.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on mammals.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on mammals. Extant taxa are colored. Thylacinus is recently extinct.

The latest competing study
(O’Leary et al. 2013, Fig. 2) recovers the highly specialized edentates, aardvarks, elephants and elephant shrews as the most primitive placentals. Carnivora + bats are quite derived in the O’Leary team cladogram, somehow giving rise to ungulates and whales. This is an untenable hypothesis. It doesn’t make sense. Evidently the O’Leary team had faith that smaller didelphid-like ancestors would fill in the enormous phylogenetic gaps in their cladogram. By contrast the LRT has all the operational taxonomic units (OTUs) it needs to produce a series of gradually accumulating derived traits between every taxon in its chart (Fig. 1). The LRT makes sense.

Figure 5. Simplified version of the O'Leary et al 2013 cladogram showing placental relations exploded after the K-T boundary.

Figure 5. Simplified version of the O’Leary et al 2013 cladogram showing placental relations exploded after the K-T boundary.

References
O’Leary, MA et al. 2013. The placental mammal ancestor and the post-K-Pg radiation of  placentals. Science 339:662-667. abstract
Wible JR, Rougier GW, Novacek MJ, Asher RJ 2007. Cretaceous eutherians and Laurasian origin for placental mammals near the K/T boundary Nature 447: 1003-1006

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/another-look-at-the-oleary-et-al-hypothetical-ancestor-of-placentals/

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/post-k-t-explosion-of-placentals-oleary-et-al-2013/

ArchibaldEtAl.pdf
protungulatum-donnae website

Naked, horned and pocket gophers

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on the rabbit/rodent and kin clade where gophers nest with hedgehogs.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on the rabbit/rodent and kin clade where gophers nest with hedgehogs.

In the large reptile tree (LRT, 1258 taxa, Fig. 1) the naked mole rat (genus: Heterocephalus, Fig. 2) nests with the hedgehog clade, one node off from the mouse/rat/clade. So the naked mole rat should be the  naked mole gopher.

Figure 1. The naked mole rat, Heterocephalus is closer to hedgehogs than to rats.

Figure 2. The naked mole rat, Heterocephalus is closer to hedgehogs than to rats.

Heterocephalus glaber (Rüppell 1842-5; 8-10cm) is the extant naked mole rat. It has a cold-blooded metabolism, lives underground, and can move backwards as fast as forward. Not the claws, but the teeth (protruding outside the lips) are used for digging. Heterocephalus is essentially hairless, lives in a colony dominated by a queen and may live up to 32 years in a low oxygen environment, or several times longer than related taxa.

Figure 2. Naked mole rat (Heterocephalus) skull in several view. The mandibles are disarticulated here, but the glenoid appears to be reduced to absent, providing great mobility to the jaws.

Figure 2. Naked mole rat (Heterocephalus) skull in several view. The mandibles are disarticulated here, but the glenoid appears to be reduced to absent, providing great mobility to the jaws.

Ceratogaulus hatcheri is the extinct horned gopher (Fig. 3). It nests with the naked mole rat in the LRT (Fig. 1).

Figure 3. Ceratogaulus, the extinct horned gopher

Figure 3. Ceratogaulus, the extinct horned gopher

Thomomys bottae (Figs. 4, 5) is the extant pocket gopher, another rodent nesting with hedgehogs.

Figure 4. Skull of Thomomys, the extant pocket gopher.

Figure 4. Skull of Thomomys, the extant pocket gopher. No large retroarticular process here.

These taxa look like rodents
but they nest with hedgehogs. So do we expand our concept of rodents (lumping)? Or make new clades (splitting)?

Figure 5. Skeleton of Thomomys, the pocket gopher.

Figure 5. Skeleton of Thomomys, the pocket gopher.

 

Rodentia is characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the jaws, as opposed to rabbits, which have two incisors.

Glires (Latin glīrēsdormice) is a clade consisting of rodents and lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas). In the LRT many more clades of small mammals nest with rabbits and rodents.

Euarchontoglires (synonymous with Supraprimates) is a clade of mammals, the living members of which belong to one of the five following groups: rodentslagomorphstreeshrewscolugos and primates. In the LRT rodents nest with primates, but not colugos.

References
Rüppell E 1842-5. Säugethiere aus der Ordnung der Nager, beobachtet im nordöstlichen Africa. Museum Senckenbergianum: Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der beschreibenden Naturgeschichte. 3: 99–101.

wiki/Hedgehogs
wiki/Erinaceus
wiki/Echinops
wiki/Naked_mole-rat

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/african-mole-rats-so-much-more-than-just-the-naked-mole-rat/

Molecules vs morphology in mammals: Beck and Baillie 2018

Some published thoughts
on traits vs. molecules just out in the last week.

Beck and Baillie 2018 titled their paper: 
“Improvements in the fossil record may largely resolve the conflict between morphological and molecular estimates of mammal phylogeny.” No. Just the opposite. But you can see exactly where they put their faith… not in what they can see and measure.

From the abstract (annotated):
“Morphological phylogenies of mammals continue to show major conflicts with the robust molecular consensus view of their relationships.” True.

“This raises doubts as to whether current morphological character sets are able to accurately resolve mammal relationships, particularly for fossil taxa for which, in most cases, molecular data is unlikely to ever become available.” Just the opposite. Doubts should have been raised about molecular data, which can be influenced by local viruses. Only physical traits, i. e. the expression of activated molecules, resolves relationships, as the large reptile tree (LRT, 1255 taxa) attests. 

“We tested this under a hypothetical ‘best case scenario’ by using ancestral state reconstruction (under both maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood) to infer the morphologies of fossil ancestors for all clades present in a recent comprehensive molecular phylogeny of mammals, and then seeing what effect inclusion of these predicted ancestors had on unconstrained analyses of morphological data. We found that this resulted in topologies that are highly congruent with the molecular consensus, even when simulating the effect of incomplete fossilisation. Most strikingly, several analyses recovered monophyly of clades that have never been found in previous morphology-only studies, such as Afrotheria and Laurasiatheria.” In other words, we used our imaginations to make molecule phylogenies work, rather than considering the possibility that molecular phylogenies did not work. 

“Our results suggest that, at least in principle, improvements in the fossil record may be sufficient to largely reconcile morphological and molecular phylogenies of mammals, even with current morphological character sets.” They used far too few taxa. And they used suprageneric taxa. They avoided fossil taxa. This is omitting available data. 

This is not the way science is supposed to work.
So why was this published?

References
Beck RMD and Baillie C 2018. Improvements in the fossil record may largely resolve the conflict between morphological and molecular estimates of mammal phylogeny. bioRxiv doi:10.1101/373191. First posted online July 20, 2018.
http://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/07/20/373191.full.pdf