Levels of homoplasy in the evolution of the mammalian skeleton


Journal Article

It is commonly believed that there are differences in the evolutionary lability of the crania, dentition, and postcrania of mammals, the latter two being more prone to homoplasy because of strong selective pressures for feeding and locomotion, respectively. Further, because of the fragmentary nature of fossils, phylogenetic analyses of extinct taxa often must utilize characters based on only one of these systems. In this paper the levels of homoplasy (as measured by the consistency index; CI) were compared in characters based on these three anatomical systems in therian mammals. No statistically significant differences were found in the overall CIs of 41 data sets based on dental, cranial, or postcranial characters. Differences in homoplasy within data sets with two or three kinds of data were not statistically significant. These findings suggest that dental, cranial, and postcranial characters can be equally prone to homoplasy and none should be automatically dismissed, disregarded, or systematically weighted in phylogenetic analyses. The level of homoplasy in characters derived from a given region of the skeleton may differ depending on the taxonomic level of the taxa considered. Dental, cranial, and postcranial characters may not constitute "natural" classes, yet examination of the phylogenetic signal of these subsets of data previous to a simultaneous analysis can shed light on significant aspects of the evolutionary process. © 1998 Plenum Publishing Corporation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sánchez-Villagra, MR; Williams, BA

Published Date

  • January 1, 1998

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 5 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 113 - 126

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1064-7554

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1023/A:1020549505177

Citation Source

  • Scopus