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The challenges and potential utility of phenotypic specimen-level phylogeny based on maximum parsimony

Tschopp, E; Upchurch, P; (2019) The challenges and potential utility of phenotypic specimen-level phylogeny based on maximum parsimony. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh , 109 (1-2) pp. 301-323. 10.1017/S1755691018000877. Green open access

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Abstract

Specimen-level phylogenetic approaches are widely used in molecular biology for taxonomic and systematic purposes. However, they have been largely ignored in analyses based on morphological traits, where phylogeneticists mostly resort to species-level analyses. Recently, a number of specimen-level studies have been published in vertebrate palaeontology. These studies indicate that specimen-level phylogeny may be a very useful tool for systematic reassessments at low taxonomic levels. Herein, we review the challenges when working with individual organisms as operational taxonomic units in a palaeontological context, and propose guidelines of how best to perform a specimen-level phylogenetic analysis using the maximum parsimony criterion. Given that no single methodology appears to be perfectly suited to resolve relationships among individuals, and that different taxa probably require different approaches to assess their systematics, we advocate the use of a number of methodologies. In particular, we recommend the inclusion of as many specimens and characters as feasible, and the analysis of relationships using an extended implied weighting approach with different downweighting functions. Resulting polytomies should be explored using a posteriori pruning of unstable specimens, and conflicting tree topologies between different iterations of the analysis should be evaluated by a combination of support values such as jackknifing and symmetric resampling. Species delimitation should be consistent among the ingroup and based on a reproducible approach. Although time-consuming and methodologically challenging, specimen-level phylogenetic analysis is a highly useful tool to assess intraspecific variability and provide the basis for a more informed and accurate creation of species-level operational taxonomic units in large-scale systematic studies. It also has the potential to inform us about past speciation processes, morphological trait evolution, and their potential intrinsic and extrinsic drivers in pre-eminent detail.

Type: Article
Title: The challenges and potential utility of phenotypic specimen-level phylogeny based on maximum parsimony
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S1755691018000877
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1755691018000877
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10064622
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