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Keywords:

  • Bayesian relaxed clock;
  • Miocene;
  • morphology;
  • Platyrrhini;
  • South America;
  • timescale

Abstract

Recent methodological advances in molecular dating associated with the growing availability of sequence data have prompted the study of the evolution of New World Anthropoidea in recent years. Motivated by questions regarding historical biogeography or the mode of evolution, these works aimed to obtain a clearer scenario of Platyrrhini origins and diversification. Although some consensus was found, disputed issues, especially those relating to the evolutionary affinities of fossil taxa, remain. The use of fossil taxa for divergence time analysis is traditionally restricted to the provision of calibration priors. However, new analytical approaches have been developed that incorporate fossils as terminals and, thus, directly assign ages to the fossil tips. In this study, we conducted a combined analysis of molecular and morphological data, including fossils, to derive the timescale of New World anthropoids. Differently from previous studies that conducted total-evidence analysis of molecules and morphology, our approach investigated the morphological clock alone. Our results corroborate the hypothesis that living platyrrhines diversified in the last 20 Ma and that Miocene Patagonian fossils compose an independent evolutionary radiation that diversified in the late Oligocene. When compared to the node ages inferred from the molecular timescale, the inclusion of fossils augmented the precision of the estimates for nodes constrained by the fossil tips. We show that morphological data can be analysed using the same methodological framework applied in relaxed molecular clock studies.