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The Cartoon Guide to Vertebrate Evolution by Albertonykus The Cartoon Guide to Vertebrate Evolution by Albertonykus
In which I discover the pain of drawing non-avemetarsalian archosauriforms (so many osteoderms!) and ungulates.

I like to think that the Big Vertebrate Tree is a useful resource, but it's not very user-friendly. As such, I have produced a simplified (yes, this is simplified) and more vibrant vertebrate cladogram.

Animals that have been colored in are extant species. Age ranges represent known fossil record and do not include ghost lineages. The animals placed along the branches (instead of at the tips) are all based on real taxa that approximate the likely ancestral morphology of certain groups, but I have left them unlabeled to prevent propagation of the misconception that we can identify whether said taxa are the actual ancestors of those groups. Absolutely nothing is to scale.

My apologies if I butchered the anatomy of or left out any of your favorite lineages. There were an immense number of groups and characteristics I included in my original outline that I had to cut out for considerations of space and time. Those who desire a more in-depth depiction at vertebrate phylogeny should consult the Big Tree and the technical literature.

I am more inclined to update this image than the Big Tree. However, it is still a massive project by my standards, so major revisions (if necessary) will likely be irregular. Suggestions and corrections are welcome.

Adventure Time-style Darren Naish was designed by :iconclassicalguy:. Special thanks go to :icondracontes: for helping me visualize ear evolution in therapsids.
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:iconcrash-the-megaraptor:
Crash-the-Megaraptor Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hey, random question, have you ever heard of the video game "Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life"?
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:iconthepasthappened:
ThePastHappened Featured By Owner Edited Mar 5, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I was reminded of that SNES game "EVO: The Search for Eden". Kind of a cartoony game that doesn't really have any scientific value to it, but it came to mind.
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2017
Never. How is it?
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:iconcrash-the-megaraptor:
Crash-the-Megaraptor Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I dunno, I've never played it, and it's quite old (like, 1997), but apparently it's a game that allows you to pick an early amphibian and slowly evolve it into various different types of prehistoric animal until you eventually get to intelligent life. From what few videos I've seen, it looks rather cheesy (and obviously accuracy is not entirely what they're going for) but it looks pretty cool and they have a whole lot of creatures nonetheless.

I only really asked because I was reminded of it whilst seeing this guide again.
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2017
That's neat! Maybe someday we'll get a really good evolution or history of life game.
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:iconcrash-the-megaraptor:
Crash-the-Megaraptor Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
True, Especially with the myriad of cool prehistoric animals we know of now. I mean, that game was made 20 years ago, a lot has changed.
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Has anyone seriously challenged the (Tylopoda(Suina(Cetancodontamorpha, Ruminantiamorpha))) topology for Artiodactyla in recent years? I notice you put them in a polytomy here.
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2016
I put them in a polytomy because Holtz put them in a polytomy for the class (maybe from the strict consensus of Spaulding et al., 2009?), but I concur that that looks like the best supported topology for now.
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Aren't brontotheres stem-perissodactyls (as per Prothero's book)?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2016
At least some analyses support the topology I have here, such as Holbrook and Lapergola (2011).
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Wasn't there a paper a few years ago that put turtles sister to placodonts?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2016
Do you mean Lee (2013)? One of the analyses in that study had them clading with Sinosaurosphargis and placodonts sister to that group.
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:iconcrowford210:
Crowford210 Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2016  Student Artist
Amazing that vertebrates are just a small clade in the tree of life!
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:iconraishinl:
RaishinL Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
You placed placentals going in 3 directions; Xenarthrans, Afrotheres and Boreautheres, they actually went in 2 directions with Xenarthrans and Boreautheres going the same way.
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2016
That is actually an area of major debate and uncertainty in placental phylogeny! Traditionally it was thought that xenarthrans are the basalmost branch of placentals, but other studies support the topology you describe or xenarthrans and afrotheres being sister taxa of one another. For this drawing (and the course it was based on), I chose not to side with any one hypothesis by putting the three groups in a trichotomy. A couple of recent studies using different methods have strongly supported Atlantogenata (the third option), so consensus may well be starting to lean in that direction.
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:iconraishinl:
RaishinL Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
I see, so the 3 directional split may be correct
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:iconinkgink:
InkGink Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
So what about the turtles? I'm curious.
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2016
If you are asking whether the position of turtles has been resolved any better since I drew this, the answer is no. If you would like some background on the turtle problem, these two-part notes are a pretty good overview.

The long and the short of it is that both fossils and genetics now agree that turtles are diapsid reptiles that have secondarily lost their temporal fenestrae, but there is no agreement on what type of diapsid. Genetic studies strongly suggest that they are archosauromorphs (closer to crocodylians and birds than to turtles), but there is currently little solid anatomical support for that position.
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:iconinkgink:
InkGink Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks! 
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2016
Anytime!
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Palmer (2009) used Holotheria as a synonym of Mammaliaformes & Theriimorpha as a synonym of Mammalia sensu stricto. Is this nomenclature acceptable (if unorthodox)?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016
I'm not familiar enough with the history of synapsid clade names to judge.
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Is Prototheria still used? I was under the impression that Yinotheria was preferred due to the baggage associated with Prototheria.
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2016
I can find many recent references to Prototheria, whereas searching "Yinotheria" on Google Scholar returns only a handful of results. However, you may be correct that Yinotheria is preferred by paleomammalogists.
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:iconpaleosir:
paleosir Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh Wow that looks like a looooooooooot of work to research! it's an awesome guide
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2016
Thank you!
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:iconmarenhy:
Marenhy Featured By Owner May 27, 2016
Wow! I love this! I think evolution is extremely interesting, and I like the effort you put into the picture. Nod 
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner May 27, 2016
Thank you!
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
SpongeBobFossilPants Featured By Owner May 9, 2016
Prothero (2013) suggested that archontans, carnivorans & insectivorans form a clade and (more tentatively) that this clade is closer to glirans than to ungulates due to the presence of a baculum. What do you think?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner May 9, 2016
Wouldn't put much stock in a single character like that, especially one that we know can be lost relatively easily (as it has in us).
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
SpongeBobFossilPants Featured By Owner May 9, 2016
What about the carnivoran-archontan thing? I vaguely remember some molecular analyses supporting that around 2007.
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner May 9, 2016
I haven't read those studies, but it's fair to say they don't represent the consensus view.
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
SpongeBobFossilPants Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2016
Would you agree with Prothero (2013) that we may actually be farther from the true mammalian tree than we were 20 years ago? We already discussed some of this on Twitter, but is such skepticism justified from a strictly paleontological perspective?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2016
Some skepticism is justified, but I disagree that we are farther from the true tree. Asher et al. (2008) have a reasonable (in my opinion) perspective on this.
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Has any consensus been reached on tethythere phylogeny? Prothero published a cladogram in the late 80s or early 90s with sirenians branching off first, but I don't remember what evidence he used.

Also, isn't taxeopody fairly widespread within mammals?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2016
No resolution on tethytheres as far as I'm aware. (One recent analysis even found desmostylians outside of Afrotheria entirely.) Taxeopody is found in some non-paenungulate mammals, but that doesn't mean it can't be a paenungulate synapomorphy.
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:icongrisador:
grisador Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2016
Amazing work; wow !
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2016
Thanks!
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:icongrisador:
grisador Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016
You're welcome ! Very good works you made ! :nod:
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
What would you say to replicating the Big Tree with this format?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2016
It would take a ridiculous amount of time.
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:icontitanorex:
TitanoRex Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2016
dude sick burns via lamprey 
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2016
Lampreys can be real mean!
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:iconolofmoleman:
olofmoleman Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2016   Digital Artist
This is absolutely fantastic. Great work! Loving the cute little details!
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2016
Thank you!
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Aren't drepanosaurids protorosaurs?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2016
Not unquestionably.
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:iconspongebobfossilpants:
Will you update this after Halliday et al.'s Paleocene mammal paper (creodonts sister to pangolins, mesonychids as ostentorians, bats sister to ostentorians, more support for Atlantogenata)?
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:iconalbertonykus:
Albertonykus Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2016
Possibly.
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