Int J Biol Sci 2012; 8(4):486-497. doi:10.7150/ijbs.3982

Research Paper

A Comparative Study of Mammalian Diversification Pattern

Wenhua Yu1, Junxiao Xu1, Yi Wu2,✉, Guang Yang1,✉

1. Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Biodiversity and Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210046, China;
2. College of Life Sciences, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China

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Yu W, Xu J, Wu Y, Yang G. A Comparative Study of Mammalian Diversification Pattern. Int J Biol Sci 2012; 8(4):486-497. doi:10.7150/ijbs.3982. Available from

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Although mammals have long been regarded as a successful radiation, the diversification pattern among the clades is still poorly known. Higher-level phylogenies are conflicting and comprehensive comparative analyses are still lacking. Using a recently published supermatrix encompassing nearly all extant mammalian families and a novel comparative likelihood approach (MEDUSA), the diversification pattern of mammalian groups was examined. Both order- and family-level phylogenetic analyses revealed the rapid radiation of Boreoeutheria and Euaustralidelphia in the early mammalian history. The observation of a diversification burst within Boreoeutheria at approximately 100 My supports the Long Fuse model in elucidating placental diversification progress, and the rapid radiation of Euaustralidelphia suggests an important role of biogeographic dispersal events in triggering early Australian marsupial rapid radiation. Diversification analyses based on family-level diversity tree revealed seven additional clades with exceptional diversification rate shifts, six of which represent accelerations in net diversification rate as compared to the background pattern. The shifts gave origin to the clades Muridae+Cricetidae, Bovidae+Moschidae+Cervidae, Simiiformes, Echimyidae, Odontoceti (excluding Physeteridae+Kogiidae+Platanistidae), Macropodidae, and Vespertilionidae. Moderate to high extinction rates from background and boreoeutherian diversification patterns indicate the important role of turnovers in shaping the heterogeneous taxonomic richness observed among extant mammalian groups. Furthermore, the present results emphasize the key role of extinction on erasing unusual diversification signals, and suggest that further studies are needed to clarify the historical radiation of some mammalian groups for which MEDUSA did not detect exceptional diversification rates.

Keywords: mammal, diversification pattern, radiation, MEDUSA