News & AnalysisEvolution

Large-Scale Gene Comparisons Boost Tree of Life Studies

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Science  04 Oct 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6154, pp. 26-27
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6154.26

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New approaches that rely on predetermined sets of markers found in the genomes of multiple species are streamlining the study of the tree of life. Scientists originally drew family trees based on visible features. Then genetics took over phylogenies, with biologists determining species relatedness from how DNA sequences differed among species. But pulling out even a few genes or DNA regions that are appropriate for such comparisons used to take years. Now, several teams, including a scientist couple in Florida, have come up with ways to capture hundreds of markers from dozens of species easily and cheaply, and scores of biologists are following their lead.