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Building Phylogenetic Trees

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

How do scientists construct phylogenetic trees? Presently, the most accepted method for constructing phylogenetic trees is a method called cladistics. This method sorts organisms into clades, groups of organisms that are most closely related to each other and the ancestor from which they descended. For example, in Figure 12.9, all of the organisms in the shaded region evolved from a single ancestor that


Figure 12.9 Lizards, rabbits, and humans all descend from a common ancestor in which the amniotic egg evolved. Thus, lizards, rabbits, and humans all belong to the clade Amniota. Vertebrata is a larger clade that also includes fish and lamprey.
Which animals in this figure belong to a clade that includes animals with hair? Which evolved first: hair or the amniotic egg?

Clades can vary in size depending on which branch point is being referenced. The important factor is that all of the organisms in the clade or monophyletic group stem from a single point on the tree. This can be remembered because monophyletic breaks down into “mono,” meaning one, and “phyletic,” meaning evolutionary relationship.