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Hippopotamus and whale phylogeny


Arising from: J. G. M. Thewissen, L. N. Cooper, M. T. Clementz, S. Bajpai & B. N. Tiwari Nature 450, 1190–1194 (2007)10.1038/nature06343; Thewissen et al. reply

Thewissen et al.1 describe new fossils from India that apparently support a phylogeny that places Cetacea (that is, whales, dolphins, porpoises) as the sister group to the extinct family Raoellidae, and Hippopotamidae as more closely related to pigs and peccaries (that is, Suina) than to cetaceans. However, our reanalysis of a modified version of the data set they used2 differs in retaining molecular characters and demonstrates that Hippopotamidae is the closest extant family to Cetacea and that raoellids are the closest extinct group, consistent with previous phylogenetic studies2,3. This topology supports the view that the aquatic adaptations in hippopotamids and cetaceans are inherited from their common ancestor4.

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Figure 1: Effect of molecular data on the phylogeny of cetaceans and terrestrial relatives.
Figure 2: Appendix Figure 1 Strict consensus of equal-weights parsimony analysis.
Figure 3: Appendix Figure 2 Reduced consensus of equal-weights parsimony analysis.
Figure 4: Appendix Figure 3 Differential weights parsimony analysis.


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Geisler, J., Theodor, J. Hippopotamus and whale phylogeny. Nature 458, E1–E4 (2009).

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