Graduate Fellow

A quantitative way to identify ancestors in the fossil record

PI(s): Kristin Lamm (North Carolina State Univerisity)
Start Date: 23-Aug-2012
End Date: 7-Dec-2012
Keywords: systematics, paleontology, phylogenetics

As interest in the evolutionary relationships among fossil taxa has expanded beyond the community of systematic paleontologists, there has been a concomitant increase in demand for new analytic approaches that accommodate the unique nature of fossil data. Because fossils are sampled through time, it is possible for a fossil to be the sole representative of an extinct side branch on the tree of life. Alternatively, it may be sampled directly from the ancestral lineage of another fossil or living species. Many methods require the user to specify, a priori, whether a fossil is an ancestor or not. This project offers a probabilistic approach for the estimation of ancestor-descendent status, which should be a tool of broad utility to both paleontologists and molecular biologists.