Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - EVOECO AND FOSSILS (Evolutionary ecology and extinct species: how do fossils change our interpretations of present-day biodiversity patterns?)

Living species represent less than 1% of all species that have ever lived. Ignoring fossil taxa may lead to misinterpretation of macroevolutionary patterns and processes such as trends in species richness, biogeographical history or palaeoecology. This fact has led to an increasing consensus among scientists that both fossil and living taxa must be included in macroevolutionary studies. This project aimed to investigate methods for combining fossil and living taxa in phylogenetic trees, particularly focusing on a recently popularised approach called the Total Evidence method. This method creates a supermatrix containing morphological data from living and fossil species and molecular data for living species and then uses this to build a phylogeny.

Total Evidence trees need a lot of data, i.e. morphological data from living and fossil species and molecular data for living species. Therefore we proposed that missing data might influence the method substantially. We assessed the effect of missing data on tree topologies inferred from Total Evidence supermatrices using simulations. We found that the ability to recover a stable phylogeny was mainly driven by the number of morphological characters shared among the taxa. Our results suggest that, in order to use Total Evidence Methods, one should reduce the missing data in the morphological part of the supermatrix. We then investigated how much morphological data were available for living species of mammal. We found that levels were surprisingly low - only 16% of mammal species had available morphological data. We conclude that more work needs to be done in collecting this kind of data from natural history collections. Our results were published in high impact, international, peer-reviewed journals and also disseminated through conference presentations, posters, invited seminars, teaching, workshops, social media, and public outreach events.

This grant was instrumental in allowing me to secure a stable, full-time, permanent position at NHM as a Researcher in Life Sciences (Vertebrates), and to become fully reintegrated into European academia after time spent in the USA. I believe this will contribute to future promotions and job security, and am extremely grateful for the opportunities it has provided.


Oliver Bacon, (Grants Liaison Officer)
Tel.: +4402079426690


Life Sciences
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