Fossil gaps inferred from phylogenies alter the apparent nature of diversification in dragonflies and their relatives.
BACKGROUND: The fossil record has suggested that clade growth may differ in marine and terrestrial taxa, supporting equilibrial models in the former and expansionist models in the latter. However, incomplete sampling may bias findings based on fossil data alone. To attempt to correct for such bias, we assemble phylogenetic supertrees on one of the oldest clades of insects, the Odonatoidea (dragonflies, damselflies and their extinct relatives), using MRP and MRC. We use the trees to determine when, and in what clades, changes in taxonomic richness have occurred. We then test whether equilibrial or expansionist models are supported by fossil data alone, and whether findings differ when phylogenetic information is used to infer gaps in the fossil record. RESULTS: There is broad agreement in family-level relationships between both supertrees, though with some uncertainty along the backbone of the tree regarding dragonflies (Anisoptera). "Anisozygoptera" are shown to be paraphyletic when fossil information is taken into account. In both trees, decreases in net diversification are associated with species-poor extant families (Neopetaliidae, Hemiphlebiidae), and an upshift is associated with Calopterygidae + Polythoridae. When ghost ranges are inferred from the fossil record, many families are shown to have much earlier origination dates. In a phylogenetic context, the number of family-level lineages is shown to be up to twice as high as the fossil record alone suggests through the Cretaceous and Cenozoic, and a logistic increase in richness is detected in contrast to an exponential increase indicated by fossils alone. CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis supports the notion that taxa, which appear to have diversified exponentially using fossil data, may in fact have diversified more logistically. This in turn suggests that one of the major apparent differences between the marine and terrestrial fossil record may simply be an artifact of incomplete sampling. Our results also support previous notions that adult colouration plays an important role in odonate radiation, and that Anisozygoptera should be grouped in a single inclusive taxon with Anisoptera, separate from Zygoptera.