Dated phylogenies of fossil taxa allow palaeobiologists to estimate the timing of major divergences and placement of extinct lineages, and to test macroevolutionary hypotheses. Recently developed Bayesian ‘tip-dating’ methods simultaneously infer and date the branching relationships among fossil taxa, and infer putative ancestral relationships. Using a previously published dataset for extinct theropod dinosaurs, we contrast the dated relationships inferred by several tip-dating approaches and evaluate potential downstream effects on phylogenetic comparative methods. We also compare tip-dating analyses to maximum-parsimony trees time-scaled via alternative a posteriori approaches including via the probabilistic cal3 method. Among tip-dating analyses, we find opposing but strongly supported relationships, despite similarity in inferred ancestors. Overall, tip-dating methods infer divergence dates often millions (or tens of millions) of years older than the earliest stratigraphic appearance of that clade. Model-comparison analyses of the pattern of body-size evolution found that the support for evolutionary mode can vary across and between tree samples from cal3 and tip-dating approaches. These differences suggest that model and software choice in dating analyses can have a substantial impact on the dated phylogenies obtained and broader evolutionary inferences.
An invited contribution to the special feature ‘Putting fossils in trees: combining morphology, time, and molecules to estimate phylogenies and divergence times’.
- Received March 22, 2016.
- Accepted June 20, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.