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Mammal madness: is the mammal tree of life not yet resolved?

June 30 , 2016

Most molecular phylogenetic studies place all placental mammals into four superordinal groups, Laurasiatheria (e.g. dogs, bats, whales), Euarchontoglires (e.g. humans, rodents, colugos), Xenarthra (e.g. armadillos, anteaters) and Afrotheria (e.g. elephants, sea cows, tenrecs), and estimate that these clades last shared a common ancestor 90–110 million years ago. This phylogeny has provided a framework for numerous functional and comparative studies. Despite the high level of congruence among most molecular studies, questions still remain regarding the position and divergence time of the root of placental mammals, and certain ‘hard nodes’ such as the Laurasiatheria polytomy and Paenungulata that seem impossible to resolve. Here, we explore recent consensus and conflict among mammalian phylogenetic studies and explore the reasons for the remaining conflicts. The question of whether the mammal tree of life is or can be ever resolved is also addressed.

Nicole M. Foley, Mark S. Springer & Emma C. Teeling (2016)
Mammal madness: is the mammal tree of life not yet resolved?
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences: 371 (1699)
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0140



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