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Integrating fossil and molecular data in the study of diversification

PI(s): Gene Hunt (Smithsonian Institution)
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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