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By John C. Avise

Reconstructing phylogenetic timber from DNA sequences has develop into a well-liked workout in lots of branches of biology, and the following the well known geneticist John Avise explains why. Molecular phylogenies supply a genealogical backdrop for analyzing the evolutionary histories of many different varieties of organic characteristics (anatomical, behavioral, ecological, physiological, biochemical or even geographical). Guiding readers on a typical background travel alongside dozens of evolutionary pathways, the writer describes how creatures starting from microbes to elephants got here to own their present phenotypes. crucial examining for college kids, specialist biologists and someone drawn to usual background and biodiversity, this booklet is jam-packed with attention-grabbing examples of evolutionary puzzles from around the animal country; how the toucan acquired its huge, immense invoice, how reptiles develop again misplaced limbs and why Arctic fish do not freeze.

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Audax was only a distant evolutionary cousin (Fig. 11). Members of the genus Hieraaetus are actually among the smallest living eagles, having less than one-tenth the mass of Harpagornis moorei and only half the wingspan. Although at first glance they might seem unlikely candidates for being the Haast’s Eagle’s closest kin, the molecular genetic data indicate otherwise. Thus, rather than having evolved directly from a large-bodied ancestor, it now seems probable that Harpagornis moorei evolved from much smaller eagles that may have colonized New Zealand about 1–2 million years ago (based on the observed magnitude of mtDNA sequence divergence between Harpagornis and Hieraaetus).

9 is correct, in which case all of the provisional PCM interpretations listed above would again have to be revisited. The broader point, illustrated by sarcopterygian fishes, is that wholesale reinterpretations of how phenotypic traits evolved are sometimes necessitated by even slight alterations in the underlying topology of a phylogenetic tree. Panda ponderings Some creatures display such peculiar assortments of anatomical and behavioral features that the phylogenetic challenge is simply to identify the major taxonomic groups to which they are most closely related.

Among the features that distinguish extant snakes from other legless squamates are deeply forked tongues and an absence of eyelids and external ears. To estimate squamate relationships, Vidal and Hedges (2004) gathered DNA sequences from two slowly evolving nuclear genes. 8, indicate that living snakes are monophyletic, as are several other traditionally recognized squamate groups such as iguanid-like lizards. This gives added confidence to the general branching structure of this molecular tree.

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