Biodiversity Information Science and Standards : Conference Abstract
Conference Abstract
Integrating Phylogenetics and Morphology to Study Diversification and Species Limits in Madagascar’s Tenrecs (Tenrecidae)
expand article infoKathryn M Everson, Link Olson§
‡ University of Alaska Museum, Fairbanks, Alaska, United States of America
§ University of Alaska Museum of the North, Fairbanks, United States of America
Open Access


Madagascar is one of the world’s hottest biodiversity hotspots and a natural laboratory for evolutionary research. Tenrecs (Tenrecidae; 32 currently recognized species) – small placental mammals endemic to Madagascar – colonized the island >35 million years ago and have evolved a stunning range of behaviors and morphologies, including heterothermic species; species with hedgehog-like spines; and fossorial, aquatic, and scansorial ecotypes. In 2016, we produced the first taxonomically complete phylogeny of tenrecs, which has served as a framework for studying morphological evolution, phylogeography, and species limits. Most recently, we have built on this phylogeny to incorporate an enormous database of genetic, morphometric, and geographic data from >800 vouchered tenrec specimens. These data have revealed interesting and unexpected aspects of their evolutionary history, including decoupled diversification of the cranium and postcranium. Using a machine learning approach, we have also uncovered numerous new, cryptic species in the family Tenrecidae. As phylogenetic and phenotypic data become more readily available through online repositories, we expect that the same approaches can be applied to other taxonomic groups, providing unprecented resolution of the tree of life.


Madagascar, tenrecs, morphology, phylogenetics, cryptic species, machine learning

Presenting author

Kathryn M. Everson

Presented at

TDWG 2018 - Biodiversity Information Standards Meeting

Dunedin, New Zealand

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