Morphological data is lacking for living mammals

Morphological data is lacking for living mammals
Thomas Guillerme, Natalie Cooper
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/022970

Combining living and fossil in the same analysis data is crucial for studying changes in global biodiversity through time. One method allowing to combine this data is the Total Evidence method that uses both molecular data for living species and morphological data for both living and fossil species. With this method, a good overlap of morphological data between living and fossil taxa is crucial for accurately inferring the phylogenies’ topology. Since the advent of DNA, molecular data has become easily and widely available. However, despite two centuries of morphological studies, scientists using and generating such data mainly focus on palaeontological data. Therefore, there is a gap in our knowledge of neontological morphological data even in well studied groups such as mammals. In this study, we quantify the morphological data available for living mammal taxa. We then analyse the structure of the available data by testing if it is clustered or evenly spread across the phylogeny. We found that 78% of mammalian orders have less than 25% data available at the species level. However, we found that the available is often randomly distributed among these orders apart from six of them where the data is clustered

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