Journal article

On trends and patterns in macroevolution: Williston’s law and the branchiostegal series of extant and extinct osteichthyans

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  • BMC Evolutionary Biology. - 2019, vol. 19, no. 1, p. 117
English The branchiostegal series consists of an alignment of bony elements in the posterior portion of the skull of osteichthyan vertebrates. We trace the evolution of the number of elements in a comprehensive survey that includes 440 extant and 66 extinct species. Using a newly updated actinopterygian tree in combination with phylogenetic comparative analyses, we test whether osteichthyan branchiostegals follow an evolutionary trend under ‘Williston’s law’, which postulates that osteichthyan lineages experienced a reduction of bony elements over time.Results: We detected no overall macroevolutionary trend in branchiostegal numbers, providing no support for ‘Williston’s law’. This result is robust to the subsampling of palaeontological data, but the estimation of the model parameters is much more ambiguous.Conclusions: We find substantial evidence for a macroevolutionary dynamic favouring an ‘early burst’ of trait evolution over alternative models. Our study highlights the challenges of accurately reconstructing macroevolutionary dynamics even with large amounts of data about extant and extinct taxa.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
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