PerspectiveEvolution

The Tree-Thinking Challenge

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Science  11 Nov 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5750, pp. 979-980
DOI: 10.1126/science.1117727

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  • Re: Comment on Tree Thinking

    Whereas we view phylogenetic trees as estimates of evolutionary history, Brower prefers that they be interpreted as “graphical representations of similarities and differences of observed characters.” We do not find such an interpretation compelling. If trees are just summaries of character data, why should we try to build them? Further, unless one is guided by evolutionary models1, how should one decide rationally amo...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Comment on Tree Thinking

    Baum et al. rightly emphasize the generally poor understanding of phylogenetic trees in the broader literature of comparative biology. Unfortunately, they greatly oversimplify the interpretation of these diagrams, equating the internal branching points with "actual biological entities that existed in the past," and stating that, "phylogenetic trees show historical relationships, not similarities." While these statement...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.