The Quality of the Fossil Record and the Accuracy of Phylogenetic Inferences about Sampling and Diversity
Peter J. Wagner
Department of Geology, Field Museum of Natural History Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois, 60605–2496, USA
Received May 6, 1997.
Accepted August 15, 1998.
Because phylogenies can be estimated without stratigraphic data and because estimated phylogenies also infer gaps in sampling, some workers have used phylogeny estimates as templates for evaluating sampling from the fossil record and for “correcting” historical diversity patterns. However, it is not known how sampling intensity (the probability of sampling taxa per unit time) and completeness (the proportion of taxa sampled) affect the accuracy of phylogenetic inferences, nor how phylogenetically inferred estimates of sampling and diversity respond to inaccurate estimates of phylogeny. Both issues are addressed with a series of simulations using simple models of character evolution, varying speciation patterns, and various rates of speciation, extinction, character change, and preservation. Parsimony estimates of simulated phylogenies become less accurate as sampling decreases, and inaccurate trees chronically underestimate sampling. Biotic factors such as rates of morphologic change and extinction both affect the accuracy of phylogenetic estimates and thus affect estimated gaps in sampling, indicating that differences in implied sampling need not reflect actual differences in sampling. Errors in inferred diversity are concentrated early in the history of a clade. This, coupled with failure to account for true extinction times (i.e., the Signor–Lipps effect), inflates relative diversity levels early in clade histories. Because factors other than differences in sampling predict differences in the numbers of gaps implied by phylogeny estimates, inferred phylogenies can be misleading templates for evaluating sampling or historical diversity patterns.
Diversity patterns, fossils, parsimony, simulations, taxon sampling