• The molecularization of centipede systematics

      Edgecombe, GD; Giribet, G; Fusco, G (Padova University Press, 2019-01)
      The injection of molecular data over the past 20 years has impacted on all facets of centipede systematics. Multi-locus and transcriptomic datasets are the source of a novel hypothesis for how the five living orders of centipedes interrelate but force homoplasy in some widely-accepted phenotypic and behavioural characters. Molecular dating is increasingly used to test biogeographic hypotheses, including examples of ancient vicariance. The longstanding challenge of morphological delimitation of centipede species is complemented by integrative taxonomy using molecular tools, including DNA barcoding and coalescent approaches to quantitative species delimitation. Molecular phylogenetics has revealed numerous instances of cryptic species. “Reduced genomic approaches” have the potential to incorporate historic collections, including type specimens, into centipede molecular systematics.
    • The origin of evolutionary storytelling

      Jenner, R; Fusco, G (Padova University PressPadova, Italy, 2019-01)
      Phylogenetics emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century as a discipline dedicated to constructing descriptive and explanatory narratives that traced the evolutionary origins of taxa and traits. Because ancestors and evolutionary transformations are empirically inaccessible, phylogeneticists had no choice but to use their more or less informed imagination to gain access to this epistemic hinterland. The explanatory power of phylogenetic hypotheses resides in their ability to trace back traits to their evolutionary origins. Hypothetical ancestors therefore became important epistemic tools as they were deliberately equipped with characters that could function as suitable evolutionary precursors for traits of interest. I argue that the precursor potential of hypothetical ancestors therefore became the first, more or less objective, phylogenetic optimality criterion.