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The role of fossils in dating the tree of life has been misunderstood. Fossils can provide good "minimum" age estimates for branches in the tree, but "maximum" constraints on those ages are poorer. Current debates about which are the "best" fossil dates for calibration move to consideration of the most appropriate constraints on the ages of tree nodes.(More)
The fossil record suggests a rapid radiation of placental mammals following the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction 65 million years ago (Ma); nevertheless, molecular time estimates, while highly variable, are generally much older. Early molecular studies suffer from inadequate dating methods, reliance on the molecular clock, and simplistic and(More)
A great tradition in macroevolution and systematics has been the ritual squabbling between palaeontologists and molecular biologists. But, because both sides were talking past each other, they could never agree. Practitioners in both fields should play to their strengths and work together: palaeontologists can provide minimum constraints on branching points(More)
Bayesian inference provides a powerful framework for integrating different sources of information (in particular, molecules and fossils) to derive estimates of species divergence times. Indeed, it is currently the only framework that can adequately account for uncertainties in fossil calibrations. We use 2 Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo programs,(More)
microRNAs (miRNAs) are a key component of gene regulatory networks and have been implicated in the regulation of virtually every biological process found in multicellular eukaryotes. What makes them interesting from a phylogenetic perspective is the high conservation of primary sequence between taxa, their accrual in metazoan genomes through evolutionary(More)
permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Our ability to correlate biological evolution with climate change, geological evolution, and other historical patterns is essential to understanding the processes that shape biodiversity. Combining data from the fossil record(More)
Vertebrate evolution has been punctuated by three episodes of widespread gene or genome duplication, which have been linked with the origin of vertebrates, gnathostomes and teleosts, respectively. These three events coincide with bursts of character acquisition and increases in phenotypic complexity, and many researchers have suggested a causal relationship(More)
Many of the features that distinguish the vertebrates from other chordates are derived from the neural crest, and it has long been argued that the emergence of this multipotent embryonic population was a key innovation underpinning vertebrate evolution. More recently, however, a number of studies have suggested that the evolution of the neural crest was(More)
The timing of divergences among metazoan lineages is integral to understanding the processes of animal evolution, placing the biological events of species divergences into the correct geological timeframe. Recent fossil discoveries and molecular clock dating studies have suggested a divergence of bilaterian phyla >100 million years before the Cambrian, when(More)
Fossilized embryos from the late Neoproterozoic and earliest Phanerozoic have caused much excitement because they preserve the earliest stages of embryology of animals that represent the initial diversification of metazoans. However, the potential of this material has not been fully realized because of reliance on traditional, non-destructive methods that(More)