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Systematic Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Genet. | doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.01241

Evolutionary Models for the Diversification of Placental Mammals Across the KPg Boundary

 Mark S. Springer1*, Nicole Foley2,  Peggy Brady1, John Gatesy3 and  William Murphy2
  • 1University of California, Riverside, United States
  • 2Texas A&M University, United States
  • 3American Museum of Natural History, United States

Deciphering the timing of the placental mammal radiation is a longstanding problem in evolutionary biology, but consensus on the tempo and mode of placental diversification remains elusive. Nevertheless, an accurate timetree is essential for understanding the role of important events in Earth history (e.g., Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution, KPg mass extinction) in promoting the taxonomic and ecomorphological diversification of Placentalia. Archibald and Deutschman described three competing models for the diversification of placental mammals, which are the Explosive, Long Fuse, and Short Fuse models. More recently, the Soft Explosive and Trans-KPg models have emerged as additional hypotheses for the placental radiation. Here, we review molecular and paleontological evidence for each of these five models including the identification of general problems that can negatively impact divergence time estimates. The Long Fuse Model has received more support from relaxed clock studies than any of the other models, but this model is not supported by morphological cladistic studies that position Cretaceous eutherians outside of crown Placentalia. At the same time, morphological cladistics has a poor track record of reconstructing higher-level relationships among orders of placental mammals including new pseudoextinction analyses that we performed on the largest available morphological data set for mammals (4541 characters). We also examine the strengths and weaknesses of different timetree methods (node dating, tip dating, fossilized birth-death dating) that may now be applied to estimate the timing of the placental radiation. While new methods such as tip dating are promising, they also have significant problems that must be addressed if these methods are to effectively discriminate among competing hypotheses for placental diversification. Finally, we discuss the complexities of timetree estimation when the signal of speciation times is impacted by incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) and hybridization. Not accounting for ILS results in dates that are older than speciation events. Hybridization, in turn, can result in dates than are younger or older than speciation dates. Disregarding this potential variation in ‘gene’ history across the genome can distort phylogenetic branch lengths and divergence estimates when multiple unlinked genomic loci are combined together in a timetree analysis.

Keywords: KPg boundary, Tip dating, placental radiation, relaxed clocks, timetrees

Received: 28 Jun 2019; Accepted: 08 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Springer, Foley, Brady, Gatesy and Murphy. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Mark S. Springer, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, United States,