SEPARATING THE CROWN FROM THE STEM: DEFINING BRACHIOPODA AND PAN-BRACHIOPODA DELINEATES STEM-BRACHIOPODS
Stem-brachiopod fossils can be clearly identified as such only by contrast with a defined crown clade Brachiopoda (the most recent common ancestor of all living brachiopods and all its descendants), and with the total clade Pan-Brachiopoda (Brachiopoda and all organisms that share more recent common ancestry with Brachiopoda than with any other mutually exclusive crown clade). The stem-group identity of several fossil taxa (e.g., Micrina, Tannuolina, Eccentrotheca, Acanthotretella, Mickwitzia, Lingulosacculus, Paterimitra, and other halkieriids, tommotiids, and other poorly understood early fossils) cannot be confirmed or denied until the boundary between the stem and the crown has been established. We recently defined the crown clade Brachiopoda and the total clade Pan-Brachiopoda (in the Companion Volume to the PhyloCode). These definitions clarify the boundaries of the stem, and allow us to evaluate, for the first time, the phylogenetic position of these putative stem-group fossils, in light of topological analyses of the structures preserved, taphonomic analysis of the fossils, and the interpretative model organisms chosen for comparison (Donoghue & Purnell, 2009). We further discuss the implications of these interpretations for hypotheses of morphological homology. We will show how different definitions of crown and stem lead to very different evolutionary interpretations of fossil morphology and evolution.