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Dating Tips for Divergence-Time Estimation

, : Dating Tips for Divergence-Time Estimation. Trends in Genetics 31(11): 637-650

The molecular clock is the only viable means of establishing an accurate timescale for Life on Earth, but it remains reliant on a capricious fossil record for calibration. 'Tip-dating' promises a conceptual advance, integrating fossil species among their living relatives using molecular/morphological datasets and evolutionary models. Fossil species of known age establish calibration directly, and their phylogenetic uncertainty is accommodated through the co-estimation of time and topology. However, challenges remain, including a dearth of effective models of morphological evolution, rate correlation, the non-random nature of missing characters in fossil data, and, most importantly, accommodating uncertainty in fossil age. We show uncertainty in fossil-dating propagates to divergence-time estimates, yielding estimates that are older and less precise than those based on traditional node calibration. Ultimately, node and tip calibrations are not mutually incompatible and may be integrated to achieve more accurate and precise evolutionary timescales.


PMID: 26439502

DOI: 10.1016/j.tig.2015.08.001

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