Wiley Online Library : Cladistics


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November 6, 2014

Ants that resemble Camponotus maculatus (Fabricius, 1782) present an opportunity to test the hypothesis that the origin of the Pacific island fauna was primarily New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Indo-Malay archipelago (collectively known as Malesia). We sequenced two mitochondrial and four nuclear markers from 146 specimens from Pacific islands, Australia, and Malesia. We also added 211 specimens representing a larger worldwide sample and performed a series of phylogenetic analyses and ancestral area reconstructions. Results indicate that the Pacific members of this group comprise several robust clades that have distinctly different biogeographical histories, and they suggest an important role for Australia as a source of Pacific colonizations. Malesian areas were recovered mostly in derived positions, and one lineage appears to be Neotropical. Phylogenetic hypotheses indicate that the orange, pan-Pacific form commonly identified as C. chloroticus Emery 1897 actually consists of two distantly related lineages. Also, the lineage on Hawaiʻi, which has been called C. variegatus (Smith, 1858), appears to be closely related to C. tortuganus Emery, 1895 in Florida and other lineages in the New World. In Micronesia and Polynesia the C. chloroticus-like species support predictions of the taxon-cycle hypothesis and could be candidates for human-mediated dispersal.

October 28, 2014

The asidine darkling beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Asidini) are a diverse tribe of flightless tenebrionids found in many arid and sub-arid habitats around the world. The 263 currently described North American species are contained in ten genera, all of which are restricted to the western half of the continent. The Asidini, like all members of the subfamily Pimeliinae, lack defensive glands. Instead, several phenotypic traits occur within the tribe that may help limit predation. These include the contrasting defensive strategies of crypsis, through either background matching or pattern disruption, and Batesian mimicry of the chemically defended genus Eleodes. Dorsal elytral morphology was assessed between 53 North American asidine species and 13 common Eleodes model species using multiple methodologies to assess similarities between species in the two groups that might indicate mimetic relationships. A phylogeny of the North American asidines is used to map the occurrence of differing defensive strategies within the tribe. Crypsis is reconstructed as the ancestral state, with two origins for Batesian mimicry and multiple reversals. The combination of strongly to weakly cryptic species and varying levels of mimetic fidelity to Eleodes model species make the asidines a promising lineage upon which to further explore the evolution of defensive phenotypes.
Wheeler (2012) stated that minimization of ad hoc hypotheses as emphasized by Farris (1983) always leads to a preference for trivial optimizations when analysing unaligned sequence data, leaving no basis for tree choice. That is not correct. Farris's framework can be expressed as maximization of homology, a formulation that has been used to overcome the problems with inapplicables (it leads to the notion of subcharacters as a quantity to be co-minimized in parsimony analysis) and that is known not to lead to a preference for trivial optimizations when analysing unaligned sequence data. Maximization of homology, in turn, can be formulated as a minimization of ad hoc hypotheses of homoplasy in the sense of Farris, as shown here. These issues are not just theoretical but have empirical relevance. It is therefore also discussed how maximization of homology can be approximated under various weighting schemes in heuristic tree alignment programs, such as POY, that do not take into account subcharacters. Empirical analyses that use the so-called 3221 cost set (gap opening cost three, transversion and transition costs two, and gap extension cost one), the cost set that is known to be an optimal approximation under equally weighted homology in POY, are briefly reviewed. From a theoretical point of view, maximization of homology provides the general framework to understand such cost sets in terms that are biologically relevant and meaningful. Whether or not embedded in a sensitivity analysis, this is not the case for minimization of a cost that is defined in operational terms only. Neither is it the case for minimization of equally weighted transformations, a known problem that is not addressed by Kluge and Grant's (2006) proposal to invoke the anti-superfluity principle as a rationale for this minimization.

October 19, 2014

We are puzzled by a recent comment that suggested that historical hypotheses can be tested but are unfalsifiable. We argue that phylogenetic hypotheses are falsifiable without the aid of a time machine and that they are like any other hypothesis: they are tentative knowledge propositions capable of falsification with character evidence.

October 17, 2014

Arecaceae tribe Cocoseae is the most economically important tribe of palms, including both coconut and African oil palm. It is mostly represented in the Neotropics, with one and two genera endemic to South Africa and Madagascar, respectively. Using primers for six single copy WRKY gene family loci, we amplified DNA from 96 samples representing all genera of the palm tribe Cocoseae as well as outgroup tribes Reinhardtieae and Roystoneae. We compared parsimony (MP), maximum likelihood (ML), and Bayesian (B) analysis of the supermatrix with three species-tree estimation approaches. Subtribe Elaeidinae is sister to the Bactridinae in all analyses. Within subtribe Attaleinae, Lytocaryum, previously nested in Syagrus, is now positioned by MP and ML as sister to the former, with high support; B maintains Lytocaryum embedded within Syagrus. Both MP and ML resolve Cocos as sister to Syagrus; B positions Cocos as sister to Attalea. Bactridineae is composed of two sister clades, Bactris and Desmoncus in one, for which there is morphological support, and a second comprising Acrocomia, Astrocaryum, and Aiphanes. Two B and one ML gene tree-species estimation approaches are incongruent with the supermatrix in a few critical intergeneric clades, but resolve the same infrageneric relationships. The biogeographic history of the Cocoseae is dominated by dispersal events. The tribe originated in the late Cretaceous in South America. Evaluated together, the supermatrix and species tree analyses presented in this paper provide the most accurate picture of the evolutionary history of the tribe to date, with more congruence than incongruence among the various methodologies.

September 30, 2014

The first rigorous analysis of the phylogeny of the North American vaejovid scorpion subfamily Syntropinae is presented. The analysis is based on 250 morphological characters and 4221 aligned DNA nucleotides from three mitochondrial and two nuclear gene markers, for 145 terminal taxa, representing 47 species in 11 ingroup genera, and 15 species in eight outgroup genera. The monophyly and composition of Syntropinae and its component genera, as proposed by Soleglad and Fet, are tested. The following taxa are demonstrated to be para- or polyphyletic: Smeringurinae; Syntropinae; Vaejovinae; Stahnkeini; Syntropini; Syntropina; Thorelliina; Hoffmannius; Kochius; and Thorellius. The spinose (hooked or toothed) margin of the distal barb of the sclerotized hemi-mating plug is demonstrated to be a unique, unambiguous synapomorphy for Syntropinae, uniting taxa previously assigned to different subfamilies. Results of the analysis demonstrate a novel phylogenetic relationship for the subfamily, comprising six major clades and 11 genera, justify the establishment of six new genera, and they offer new insights about the systematics and historical biogeography of the subfamily, and the information content of morphological character systems.