Article ID: CBB001251350

Darwin's Two Competing Phylogenetic Trees: Marsupials as Ancestors or Sister Taxa? (2012)


Studies of the origin and diversification of major groups of plants and animals are contentious topics in current evolutionary biology. This includes the study of the timing and relationships of the two major clades of extant mammals -- marsupials and placentals. Molecular studies concerned with marsupial and placental origin and diversification can be at odds with the fossil record. Such studies are, however, not a recent phenomenon. Over 150 years ago Charles Darwin weighed two alternative views on the origin of marsupials and placentals. Less than a year after the publication of On the origin of species, Darwin outlined these in a letter to Charles Lyell dated 23 September 1860. The letter concluded with two competing phylogenetic diagrams. One showed marsupials as ancestral to both living marsupials and placentals, whereas the other showed a non-marsupial, non-placental as being ancestral to both living marsupials and placentals. These two diagrams are published here for the first time. These are the only such competing phylogenetic diagrams that Darwin is known to have produced. In addition to examining the question of mammalian origins in this letter and in other manuscript notes discussed here, Darwin confronted the broader issue as to whether major groups of animals had a single origin (monophyly) or were the result of continuous creation as advocated for some groups by Richard Owen. Charles Lyell had held similar views to those of Owen, but it is clear from correspondence with Darwin that he was beginning to accept the idea of monophyly of major groups.

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Authors & Contributors
Bartholomew, Michael
Laurent, Goulven
Rudwick, Martin J.S.
Sober, Elliott R.
Hull, David L.
Ambrose, C. T.
Journal of the History of Biology
British Journal for the History of Science
Sciences et Techniques en Perspective
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Archives of Natural History
Ashgate Publishing
Harvard University Press
Princeton University
Evolutionary developmental biology
Philosophy of science
Earth sciences
Homology (biology)
Darwin, Charles Robert
Lyell, Charles
Murchison, Roderick Impey
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monet de
Morgan, Conway Lloyd
Gray, Asa
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
18th century
21st century
17th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain

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