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Rocks and clocks: calibrating the Tree of Life using fossils and molecules.

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 in the Tree of Life with considerable precision, and estimate the extent of unrecorded prehistory. Molecular tree analysts have remarkable modelling tools in their armoury to convert multiple minimum age constraints into meaningful dated trees. As we discuss here, work should now focus on establishing reasonable, dated trees that satisfy rigorous assessment of the available fossils and careful consideration of molecular tree methods: rocks and clocks together are an unbeatable combination. Reliably dated trees provide, for the first time, the opportunity to explore wider questions in macroevolution.

Pubmed ID: 17573149 RIS Download

Mesh terms: Animals | Biological Clocks | Biological Evolution | Calibration | Fossils | Humans | Molecular Biology | Time Factors

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