In biology, phylogenetics (/ˌfləˈnɛtɪks, -lə-/;[1][2] from Greek φυλή/φῦλον [phylé/phylon] "tribe, clan, race", and γενετικός [genetikós] "origin, source, birth")[3] is the study of the evolutionary history and relationships among or within groups of organisms. These relationships are determined by phylogenetic inference methods that focus on observed heritable traits, such as DNA sequences, protein amino acid sequences, or morphology. The result of such an analysis is a phylogenetic tree—a diagram containing a hypothesis of relationships that reflects the evolutionary history of a group of organisms.[4]

The tips of a phylogenetic tree can be living taxa or fossils, and represent the "end" or the present time in an evolutionary lineage. A phylogenetic diagram can be rooted or unrooted. A rooted tree diagram indicates the hypothetical common ancestor of the tree. An unrooted tree diagram (a network) makes no assumption about the ancestral line, and does not show the origin or "root" of the taxa in question or the direction of inferred evolutionary transformations.[5]

In addition to their use for inferring phylogenetic patterns among taxa, phylogenetic analyses are often employed to represent relationships among genes or individual organisms. Such uses have become central to understanding biodiversity, evolution, ecology, and genomes.

Phylogenetics is part of systematics.

Taxonomy is the identification, naming and classification of organisms. Classifications are now usually based on phylogenetic data, and many systematists contend that only monophyletic taxa should be recognized as named groups. The degree to which classification depends on inferred evolutionary history differs depending on the school of taxonomy: phenetics ignores phylogenetic speculation altogether, trying to represent the similarity between organisms instead; cladistics (phylogenetic systematics) tries to reflect phylogeny in its classifications by only recognizing groups based on shared, derived characters (synapomorphies); evolutionary taxonomy tries to take into account both the branching pattern and "degree of difference" to find a compromise between them.

Inference of a phylogenetic tree

Main article: Computational phylogenetics

Usual methods of phylogenetic inference involve computational approaches implementing the optimality criteria and methods of parsimony, maximum likelihood (ML), and MCMC-based Bayesian inference. All these depend upon an implicit or explicit mathematical model describing the evolution of characters observed.

Phenetics, popular in the mid-20th century but now largely obsolete, used distance matrix-based methods to construct trees based on overall similarity in morphology or similar observable traits (i.e. in the phenotype or the overall similarity of DNA, not the DNA sequence), which was often assumed to approximate phylogenetic relationships.

Prior to 1950, phylogenetic inferences were generally presented as narrative scenarios. Such methods are often ambiguous and lack explicit criteria for evaluating alternative hypotheses.[6][7][8]

History

The term "phylogeny" derives from the German Phylogenie, introduced by Haeckel in 1866,[9] and the Darwinian approach to classification became known as the "phyletic" approach.[10]

Ernst Haeckel's recapitulation theory

During the late 19th century, Ernst Haeckel's recapitulation theory, or "biogenetic fundamental law", was widely accepted. It was often expressed as "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", i.e. the development of a single organism during its lifetime, from germ to adult, successively mirrors the adult stages of successive ancestors of the species to which it belongs. But this theory has long been rejected.[11][12] Instead, ontogeny evolves – the phylogenetic history of a species cannot be read directly from its ontogeny, as Haeckel thought would be possible, but characters from ontogeny can be (and have been) used as data for phylogenetic analyses; the more closely related two species are, the more apomorphies their embryos share.

Timeline of key points

Branching tree diagram from Heinrich Georg Bronn's work (1858)
Branching tree diagram from Heinrich Georg Bronn's work (1858)
Phylogenetic tree suggested by Haeckel (1866)
Phylogenetic tree suggested by Haeckel (1866)

Outside biology

Phylogenetic tools and representations (trees and networks) can also be applied to studying the evolution of languages, in the field of quantitative comparative linguistics.[67]

See also

References

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