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Integrating fossil and molecular data in the study of diversification

PI(s): Luke Harmon (University of Idaho)
Start Date: 16-Feb-2009
End Date: 20-Feb-2009

Some of the most fundamental comparisons that can be made across the tree of life involve rates of cladogenesis, extinction, and character evolution. Although molecular and paleontological studies often share similar goals, the toolkits used by these disciplines are non-overlapping in several critical areas, impeding a truly ‘total evidence’ approach to evolutionary diversification. The main objective of this proposal is to develop new statistical techniques that will allow for the simultaneous integration of the three primary kinds of data that are informative about clade diversification (fossil, extant species, and taxonomic richness). Our particular focus will be on bridging the large gap that exists between the data used in paleontological and neontological studies of diversification. For example, we will develop methods to fit birth-death models that incorporate information about relationships among living species, the current species richness of unsampled subclades within a tree, and estimates of taxonomic diversity at various time periods from fossils. The comparative methods developed during this proposal will be distributed as R code in the GEIGER package.

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