Congratulations to Tiago Quental and Charles Marshall whose paper, Diversity dynamics: molecular phylogenies need the fossil record, was designated as the featured article in the June 21, 2010 issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
When asked to reflect on the importance of the fossil record in our understanding of today’s biodiversity, Tiago responded:
Biologists, typically overlook the fossil record when trying to explain how we got to our current biodiversity, in part because for many groups their fossil records are too poor, and in part due to the development of tools that were thought to give reliable estimates of speciation and extinction rates directly from molecular phylogenies. This has been especially attractive given the ease with which DNA sequence data can now be generated for living species.
However, the only way to directly access past biodiversity is through the fossil record. This TREE paper shows that extinction, speciation and diversification rates can only reliably be estimated with the fossil record. If we really want to understand both past and current biodiversity, we need to re-evaluate the use of DNA sequences and fully embrace the fossil record.