While many scientists feel that fossils can offer insights from the ancient past, others have been reluctant to use extinct species because the data they offer is often less complete.
Most biologists, for example, have traditionally tried to piece together the evolutionary relationships between species using only the animals that are alive today.
But in research published in journal Systematic Biology, scientists from the University of Bath and the Natural History Museum compared the morphological datasets of 45 animal groups, both living (extant) and extinct.
By running a series of analyses they were able to measure how much the family tree of life needed to be altered when data from these extant and extinct species is included or removed.
They found no difference in the impact that the fossil groups made on the family tree compared to extant groups.
“Evolutionary biologists try to reconstruct rapid and deep evolutionary branching events that happened many tens or hundreds of millions of years ago,” said Dr Matthew Wills from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry, who worked with Andrea Cobbett (University of Bath) and Dr Mark Wilkinson (Natural History Museum).
“Unlike living species, fossils offer ancient snapshots of life forms that were around at the time those branching events occurred.
“Also, living species have millions of years ‘worth’ of change piled on top of this, which can often bury the important signals we need to understand.
“Despite this, detractors have claimed that because fossil data are often less complete, usually just bones, shells and other hard parts, they are likely to muddy the water and make it difficult to find a robust evolutionary tree.
“What our research has done is demonstrate conclusively, and for the first time, that this is not the case.
“We also show that adding just one fossil to an analysis can result in a radically different picture of that group's evolutionary history. The trees constructed without fossils may be oversimplifications, and far from the truth.”
The research was funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council.
Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News