Catalysis Meeting

Integrating approaches to macroevolution: combining fossils and phylogenies

PI(s): Samantha Price (University of California-Davis)
Graham Slater (UCLA)
Lars Schmitz (Keck Graduate Institute (Claremont,CA))
Start Date: 1-Nov-2012
End Date: 31-Oct-2013
Keywords: macroevolution, comparative methods, paleontology, phylogenetics

The proposed catalysis meeting is intended to be a first step towards a unification of quantitative paleobiology with phylogenetic comparative biology to produce a macroevolutionary approach for the 21st century. The last decade has witnessed a dramatic increase in macroevolutionary studies that attempt to explain phenotypic and taxonomic diversity across the tree of life. Paleontologists, relying on information from the fossil record, take a historical approach to studying macroevolutionary patterns. Neontologists instead utilize phylogenetic inferences from extant species. Although both approaches have respective strengths, when pursued separately their assumptions and weaknesses can result in conflicting interpretations of evolutionary process. We propose a catalysis meeting to facilitate the synthesis of paleontological and neontological data and methods used to study macroevolution. A unification of these two distinct disciplines is expected to reconcile many of the conflicting conclusions and result in an improved understanding of macroevolutionary patterns and processes. The immediate outcomes of the meeting relate to three main aspects. (1) Establishing an interdisciplinary network of researchers that will join forces to integrate data and methods, enabling faster and more efficient synthesis across disciplines. (2) Outlining of a proposed framework for integrating data and methods in a perspectives paper. (3) Establishment of an annual student workshop and associated web resources to facilitate cross-disciplinary training and data sharing.