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Phylogeny, ancestors, and anagenesis in the hominin fossil record

  • Caroline Parins-Fukuchi (a1), Elliot Greiner (a2), Laura M. MacLatchy (a3) and Daniel C. Fisher (a4)


Probabilistic approaches to phylogenetic inference have recently gained traction in paleontological studies. Because they directly model processes of evolutionary change, probabilistic methods facilitate a deeper assessment of variability in evolutionary patterns by weighing evidence for competing models. Although phylogenetic methods used in paleontological studies have generally assumed that evolution proceeds by splitting cladogenesis, extensions to previous models help explore the potential for morphological and temporal data to provide differential support for contrasting modes of evolutionary divergence. Recent methodological developments have integrated ancestral relationships into probabilistic phylogenetic methods. These new approaches rely on parameter-rich models and sophisticated inferential methods, potentially obscuring the respective contributions of data and models. In this study, we describe a simple likelihoodist approach that combines probabilistic models of morphological evolution and fossil preservation to reconstruct both cladogenetic and anagenetic relationships. By applying this approach to a data set of fossil hominins, we demonstrate the capability of existing models to unveil evidence for anagenesis presented by morphological and temporal data. This evidence was previously recognized by qualitative assessments, but largely ignored by quantitative phylogenetic analyses. For example, we find support for directly ancestral relationships in multiple lineages: Sahelanthropus is ancestral to later hominins; Australopithecus anamensis is ancestral to Australopithecus afarensis; Australopithecus garhi is ancestral to Homo; Homo antecessor is ancestral to Homo heidelbergensis, which in turn is ancestral to both Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis. By accommodating direct ancestry in phylogenetics, quantitative results align more closely with previous qualitative expectations.



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Data available from the Dryad Digital Repository:; and the GitHub Digital Repository: and



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Phylogeny, ancestors, and anagenesis in the hominin fossil record

  • Caroline Parins-Fukuchi (a1), Elliot Greiner (a2), Laura M. MacLatchy (a3) and Daniel C. Fisher (a4)


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