393,130 research outputs found

    W(h)ither Fossils? Studying Morphological Character Evolution in the Age of Molecular Sequences

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    A major challenge in the post-genomics era will be to integrate molecular sequence data from extant organisms with morphological data from fossil and extant taxa into a single, coherent picture of phylogenetic relationships; only then will these phylogenetic hypotheses be effectively applied to the study of morphological character evolution. At least two analytical approaches to solving this problem have been utilized: (1) simultaneous analysis of molecular sequence and morphological data with fossil taxa included as terminals in the analysis, and (2) the molecular scaffold approach, in which morphological data are analyzed over a molecular backbone (with constraints that force extant taxa into positions suggested by sequence data). The perceived obstacles to including fossil taxa directly in simultaneous analyses of morphological and molecular sequence data with extant taxa include: (1) that fossil taxa are missing the molecular sequence portion of the character data; (2) that morphological characters might be misleading due to convergence; and (3) character weighting, specifically how and whether to weight characters in the morphological partition relative to characters in the molecular sequence data partition. The molecular scaffold has been put forward as a potential solution to at least some of these problems. Using examples of simultaneous analyses from the literature, as well as new analyses of previously published morphological and molecular sequence data matrices for extant and fossil Chiroptera (bats), we argue that the simultaneous analysis approach is superior to the molecular scaffold approach, specifically addressing the problems to which the molecular scaffold has been suggested as a solution. Finally, the application of phylogenetic hypotheses including fossil taxa (whatever their derivation) to the study of morphological character evolution is discussed, with special emphasis on scenarios in which fossil taxa are likely to be most enlightening: (1) in determining the sequence of character evolution; (2) in determining the timing of character evolution; and (3) in making inferences about the presence or absence of characteristics in fossil taxa that may not be directly observable in the fossil record. Published By: Missouri Botanical Garde

    Different evolutionary pathways underlie the morphology of wrist bones in hominoids

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    BACKGROUND The hominoid wrist has been a focus of numerous morphological analyses that aim to better understand long-standing questions about the evolution of human and hominoid hand use. However, these same analyses also suggest various scenarios of complex and mosaic patterns of morphological evolution within the wrist and potentially multiple instances of homoplasy that would benefit from require formal analysis within a phylogenetic context.We identify morphological features that principally characterize primate - and, in particular, hominoid (apes, including humans) - wrist evolution and reveal the rate, process and evolutionary timing of patterns of morphological change on individual branches of the primate tree of life. Linear morphological variables of five wrist bones - the scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, capitate and hamate - are analyzed in a diverse sample of extant hominoids (12 species, 332 specimens), Old World (8 species, 43 specimens) and New World (4 species, 26 specimens) monkeys, fossil Miocene apes (8 species, 20 specimens) and Plio-Pleistocene hominins (8 species, 18 specimens). RESULT Results reveal a combination of parallel and synapomorphic morphology within haplorrhines, and especially within hominoids, across individual wrist bones. Similar morphology of some wrist bones reflects locomotor behaviour shared between clades (scaphoid, triquetrum and capitate) while others (lunate and hamate) indicate clade-specific synapomorphic morphology. Overall, hominoids show increased variation in wrist bone morphology compared with other primate clades, supporting previous analyses, and demonstrate several occurrences of parallel evolution, particularly between orangutans and hylobatids, and among hominines (extant African apes, humans and fossil hominins). CONCLUSIONS Our analyses indicate that different evolutionary processes can underlie the evolution of a single anatomical unit (the wrist) to produce diversity in functional and morphological adaptations across individual wrist bones. These results exemplify a degree of evolutionary and functional independence across different wrist bones, the potential evolvability of skeletal morphology, and help to contextualize the postcranial mosaicism observed in the hominin fossil record

    Morphological Evolution and the Ages of Early-Type Galaxies in Clusters

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    Morphological and spectroscopic studies of high redshift clusters indicate that a significant fraction of present-day early-type galaxies was transformed from star forming galaxies at z<1. On the other hand, the slow luminosity evolution of early-type galaxies and the low scatter in their color-magnitude relation indicate a high formation redshift of their stars. In this paper we construct models which reconcile these apparently contradictory lines of evidence, and we quantify the effects of morphological evolution on the observed photometric properties of early-type galaxies in distant clusters. We show that in the case of strong morphological evolution the apparent luminosity and color evolution of early-type galaxies are similar to that of a single age stellar population formed at z=infinity, irrespective of the true star formation history of the galaxies. Furthermore, the scatter in age, and hence the scatter in color and luminosity, is approximately constant with redshift. These results are consequences of the ``progenitor bias'': the progenitors of the youngest low redshift early-type galaxies drop out of the sample at high redshift. We construct models which reproduce the observed evolution of the number fraction of early-type galaxies in rich clusters and their color and luminosity evolution simultaneously. Our modelling indicates that approx. 50% of early-type galaxies were transformed from other galaxy types at z<1, and their progenitor galaxies may have had roughly constant star formation rates prior to morphological transformation. After correcting the observed evolution of the mean M/L_B ratio for the maximum progenitor bias we find that the mean luminosity weighted formation redshift of stars in early-type galaxies z_*=2.0^{+0.3}_{-0.2} for Omega_m=0.3 and Omega_Lambda=0.7. [ABRIDGED]Comment: Accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. 13 pages, 6 figure

    Quantitative measure of evolution of bright cluster galaxies at moderate redshifts

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    Using archival data from the Hubble Space Telescope, we study the quantitative morphological evolution of spectroscopically confirmed bright galaxies in the core regions of nine clusters ranging in redshift from z=0.31z = 0.31 to z=0.84z = 0.84. We use morphological parameters derived from two dimensional bulge-disk decomposition to study the evolution. We find an increase in the mean bulge-to-total luminosity ratio B/TB/T as the Universe evolves. We also find a corresponding increase in the fraction of early type galaxies and in the mean S\'ersic index. We discuss these results and their implications to physical mechanisms for evolution of galaxy morphology.Comment: 5 pages, 3 figures, Accepted for publication in MNRAS: Letter
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