Turtle carotid circulation: a character analysis case study
The bony canals permeating the turtle skull associated with the cranial circulation have long been considered integral to an understanding of extinct and extant turtle systematics. Recent phylogenetic analyses, employing a variety of data sets, suggest alternatives to the traditional arrangement of crown turtles. Of particular note is the recent failure of investigations employing molecular techniques to retrieve a monophyletic Trionychoidea, a clade supported largely by shared circulatory features. These alternative phylogenies may also have implications for extinct forms. The turtle cranial arterial circulation therefore represents an ideal system upon which to conduct a detailed, multipronged analysis of a systematically influential character. In the present study, the theoretical underpinnings of character analysis are critically evaluated, and a new interpretation of circulatory variation in turtles is offered, including a revised phylogenetic character suite. This assessment indicates an autapomorphic circulatory pattern in Trionychia, whereas Trionychoidea is not supported. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 239–256.