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Fossil evidence and phylogeny: the age of major angiosperm clades based on mesofossil and macrofossil evidence from cretaceous deposits

Crepet, W.L., Nixon, K.C., Gandolfo, M.A.
American journal of botany 2004 v.91 no.10 pp. 1666-1682
Magnoliophyta, fossils, phylogeny
The fossil record has played an important role in the history of evolutionary thought, has aided the determination of key relationships through mosaics, and has allowed an assessment of a number of ecological hypotheses. Nonetheless, expectations that it might accurately and precisely mirror the progression of taxa through time seem optimistic in light of the many factors potentially interfering with uniform preservation. In view of these limitations, attempts to use the fossil record to corroborate phylogenetic hypotheses based on extensive comparisons among extant taxa may be misplaced. Instead we suggest a method-minimum age node mapping-for combining reliable fossil evidence with hypotheses of phylogeny. We use this methodology in conjunction with a phylogeny for angiosperms to assess timing in the history of major angiosperm clades. This method places many clades both with and without fossil records in temporal perspective, reveals discrepancies among clades in propensities for preservation, and raises some interesting questions about angiosperm evolution. By providing a context for understanding the gaps in the angiosperm fossil record this technique lends credibility and support to the remainder of the angiosperm record and to its applications in understanding a variety of aspects of angiosperm history. In effect, this methodology empowers the fossil record.