Modern Phylogeneticists Branch Out

Courtesy of Andrew Syred, Science Photo Library  COGS IN THE DATABASE: Duke University's Mitchell Levesque knocked out flagellar function in Bacillus subtilis, like those shown above, to show that novel COGs [clusters of orthologous groups of proteins] can be identified using a single trait-to-COG approach. For nearly a century, biologists relied on fossil records and morphological comparisons to reveal the evolutionary histories of organisms. But most phylogenetic trees need more than p

Leslie Pray
Jun 1, 2003
Courtesy of Andrew Syred, Science Photo Library
 COGS IN THE DATABASE: Duke University's Mitchell Levesque knocked out flagellar function in Bacillus subtilis, like those shown above, to show that novel COGs [clusters of orthologous groups of proteins] can be identified using a single trait-to-COG approach.

For nearly a century, biologists relied on fossil records and morphological comparisons to reveal the evolutionary histories of organisms. But most phylogenetic trees need more than phenotypic evidence to weather the intense debate in which reconstructionists are known to engage. With the advent of molecular phylogenetics in the 1960s came the hope of better trees, but it took nearly 40 years for them to materialize. With sequencing and analysis tools, modern phylogeneticists are finally building trees that can withstand scientific scrutiny.

This issue's first two Hot Papers demonstrate DNA's ability to reveal novel branching patterns in mammalian evolution.1,2 A third discusses using DNA sequence...

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