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Dynamic biogeographic models and dinosaur origins

  • Michael S. Y. Lee (a1) (a2), Matthew G. Baron (a3) (a4), David B. Norman (a3) and Paul M. Barrett (a4)

A comprehensive analysis of early dinosaur relationships raised the possibility that the group may have originated in Laurasia (Northern Hemisphere), rather than Gondwana (Southern Hemisphere) as often thought. However, that study focused solely on morphology and phylogenetic relationships and did not quantitatively evaluate this issue. Here, we investigate dinosaur origins using a novel Bayesian framework uniting tip-dated phylogenetics with dynamic, time-sliced biogeographic methods, which explicitly account for the age and locality of fossils and the changing interconnections of areas through time due to tectonic and eustatic change. Our analysis finds strong support for a Gondwanan origin of Dinosauria, with 99 % probability for South America (83 % for southern South America). Parsimony analysis gives concordant results. Inclusion of time-sliced biogeographic information affects ancestral state reconstructions (e.g., high connectivity between two regions increases uncertainty over which is the ancestral area) and influences tree topology (disfavouring uniting fossil taxa from localities that were widely separated during the relevant time slice). Our approach directly integrates plate tectonics with phylogenetics and divergence dating, and in doing so reaffirms southern South America as the most likely area for the geographic origin of Dinosauria.

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