Parsimony, not Bayesian analysis, recovers more stratigraphically congruent phylogenetic trees

Robert S. Sansom, Peter G. Choate, Joseph N. Keating, Emma Randle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (SciVal)


Reconstructing evolutionary histories requires accurate phylogenetic trees. Recent simulation studies suggest that probabilistic phylogenetic analyses of morphological data are more accurate than traditional parsimony techniques. Here, we use empirical data to compare Bayesian and parsimony phylogenies in terms of their congruence with the distribution of age ranges of the component taxa. Analysis of 167 independent morphological data matrices of fossil tetrapods finds that Bayesian trees exhibit significantly lower stratigraphic congruence than the equivalent parsimony trees. As such, taking stratigraphic data as an independent benchmark indicates that parsimony analyses are more accurate for phylogenetic reconstruction of morphological data. The discrepancy between simulated and empirical studies may result from historic data peaking practices or some complexities of empirical data as yet unaccounted for.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180263
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Early online date20 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Bayesian
  • Morphology
  • Parsimony
  • Phylogeny
  • Stratigraphic congruence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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