Morphological integration predicts that correlated characters will coevolve; thus, each distinct suite of correlated characters might be expected to evolve according to a separate clock or ‘pacemaker’. Characters in a large morphological dataset for mammals were found to be evolving according to seven separate clocks, each distinct from the molecular clock. Total-evidence tip-dating using these multiple clocks inflated divergence time estimates, but potentially improved topological inference. In particular, single-clock analyses placed several meridiungulates and condylarths in a heterodox position as stem placentals, but multi-clock analyses retrieved a more plausible and orthodox position within crown placentals. Several shortcomings (including uneven character sampling) currently impact upon the accuracy of total-evidence dating, but this study suggests that when sufficiently large and appropriately constructed phenotypic datasets become more commonplace, multi-clock approaches are feasible and can affect both divergence dates and phylogenetic relationships.
One contribution to the special feature ‘Putting fossils in trees: combining morphology, time, and molecules to estimate phylogenies and divergence times’.
- Received January 15, 2016.
- Accepted June 14, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.