PerspectiveEvolution

Who Speaks with a Forked Tongue?

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Science  14 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6113, pp. 1428-1429
DOI: 10.1126/science.1232455

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Summary

At the dawn of molecular phylogenetics, much was made of the conflict between results from morphological and molecular data sets. Although molecular data have rarely changed our understanding of the major multicellular groups of the evolutionary tree of life, they have suggested changes in the relationships within many groups, such as the evolutionary position of whales in the clade of even-toed ungulates (1). Further investigation has usually resolved conflicts, often by revealing inadequacies in previous morphological studies. This has led to a presumption by many in favor of molecular data, but a recent morphological analysis by Gauthier et al. (2) argues persuasively that we should reconsider whether DNA is always inherently superior for inferring life's history.