Section: Paleontology
Topic: Paleontology

What do ossification sequences tell us about the origin of extant amphibians?

10.24072/pcjournal.89 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article no. e12.

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The origin of extant amphibians has been studied using several sources of data and methods, including phylogenetic analyses of morphological data, molecular dating, stratigraphic data, and integration of ossification sequence data, but a consensus about their affinities with other Paleozoic tetrapods has failed to emerge. We have compiled five datasets to assess the relative support for six competing hypotheses about the origin of extant amphibians: a monophyletic origin among temnospondyls, a monophyletic origin among lepospondyls, a diphyletic origin among both temnospondyls and lepospondyls, a diphyletic origin among temnospondyls alone, and two variants of a triphyletic origin, in which anurans and urodeles come from different temnospondyl taxa while caecilians come from lepospondyls and are either closer to anurans and urodeles or to amniotes. Our datasets comprise ossification sequences of up to 107 terminal taxa and up to eight cranial bones, and up to 65 terminal taxa and up to seven appendicular bones, respectively. Among extinct taxa, only two or three temnospondyl can be analyzed simultaneously for cranial data, but this is not an insuperable problem because each of the six tested hypotheses implies a different position of temnospondyls and caecilians relative to other sampled taxa. For appendicular data, more extinct taxa can be analyzed, including some lepospondyls and the finned tetrapodomorph Eusthenopteron, in addition to temnospondyls. The data are analyzed through maximum likelihood, and the AICc (corrected Akaike Information Criterion) weights of the six hypotheses allow us to assess their relative support. By an unexpectedly large margin, our analyses of the cranial data support a monophyletic origin among lepospondyls; a monophyletic origin among temnospondyls, the current near-consensus, is a distant second. All other hypotheses are exceedingly unlikely according to our data. Surprisingly, analysis of the appendicular data supports triphyly of extant amphibians within a clade that unites lepospondyls and temnospondyls, contrary to all phylogenies based on molecular data and recent trees based on paleontological data, but this conclusion is not very robust.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.89
Type: Research article

Laurin, Michel 1; Lapauze, Océane 1; Marjanović, David 2

1 CR2P (Centre de Recherche sur la Paléodiversité et les Paléoenvironnements; UMR 7207), CNRS/MNHN/Sorbonne Université, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département Histoire de la Terre – Paris, France
2 Department of Evolutionary Morphology, Science Programme “Evolution and Geoprocesses”, Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research, Berlin, Germany
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
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Laurin, Michel; Lapauze, Océane; Marjanović, David. What do ossification sequences tell us about the origin of extant amphibians?. Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article  no. e12. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.89.

PCI peer reviews and recommendation, and links to data, scripts, code and supplementary information: 10.24072/pci.paleo.100002

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

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