Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossil Data Plugs Gaps In Current Knowledge, Study Shows

Date:
October 6, 2007
Source:
University of Bath
Summary:
Researchers have shown for the first time that fossils can be used as effectively as living species in understanding the complex branching in the evolutionary tree of life. 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.

Researchers have shown for the first time that fossils can be used as effectively as living species in understanding the complex branching in the evolutionary tree of life.

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 are 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bath. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bath. "Fossil Data Plugs Gaps In Current Knowledge, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071002100514.htm>.
University of Bath. (2007, October 6). Fossil Data Plugs Gaps In Current Knowledge, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071002100514.htm
University of Bath. "Fossil Data Plugs Gaps In Current Knowledge, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071002100514.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Newsy (Apr. 11, 2014) A new fossil has revealed daddy longlegs one had an extra pair of eyes. Modern species retain the gene for the extra pair but never develop them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rosa Parks Memorabilia Remain in NY Warehouse

Rosa Parks Memorabilia Remain in NY Warehouse

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) A lifetime's worth of Rosa Parks' belongings, including her Presidential Medal of Freedom, sits unseen and unsold in a New York warehouse. (April 10) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins