Turtle origins: insights from phylogenetic retrofitting and molecular scaffolds

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    36 Citations (Scopus)


    Adding new taxa to morphological phylogenetic analyses without substantially revising the set of included characters is a common practice, with drawbacks (undersampling of relevant characters) and potential benefits (character selection is not biased by preconceptions over the affinities of the 'retrofitted' taxon). Retrofitting turtles (Testudines) and other taxa to recent reptile phylogenies consistently places turtles with anapsid-grade parareptiles (especially Eunotosaurus and/or pareiasauromorphs), under both Bayesian and parsimony analyses. This morphological evidence for turtle-parareptile affinities appears to contradict the robust genomic evidence that extant (living) turtles are nested within diapsids as sister to extant archosaurs (birds and crocodilians). However, the morphological data are almost equally consistent with a turtle-archosaur clade: enforcing this molecular scaffold onto the morphological data does not greatly increase tree length (parsimony) or reduce likelihood (Bayesian inference). Moreover, under certain analytic conditions, Eunotosaurus groups with turtles and thus also falls within the turtle-archosaur clade. This result raises the possibility that turtles could simultaneously be most closely related to a taxon traditionally considered a parareptile (Eunotosaurus) and still have archosaurs as their closest extant sister group.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2729-2738
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


    • Amphibians and reptiles
    • Archosauria
    • Bayesian inference
    • Diapsida
    • Molecular scaffold
    • Morphological evolution
    • Parareptilia
    • Parsimony
    • Phylogenetics
    • Testudines


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