Emptiness of phylog. recons

Wolfgang Wuster bss166 at BANGOR.AC.UK
Fri Jul 28 09:19:14 CDT 1995

I agree with many of the points raised in Warren Lamboy's post, and in
particular, I second the need for caution in making further
interpretations on the basis of potentially (probably?) flawed
phylogenetic trees.

Nevertheless, I still feel that understanding phylogenetic descent is
the basis for systematics and classification. Most systematists, whether
cladists or not, presumably agree that classifications of organisms
should reflect evolutionary descent, and given this, I see no option but
to continue the attempts to infer this.

When you say that your simulation tests showed the true phylogeny in 10%
of cases, I assume you mean EXACTLY the true phylogeny, i.e. every node in
the tree is correct. What would be of relevance would be to understand
what PERCENTAGE of nodes on a tree are likely to be correct, on average.
For instance, if only 10% of trees are absolutely correct, but on average,
say, 85% of nodes in a tree are likely to be correct, then that is still a
useful result. On the other hand, if on average only 30% of nodes were
likely to be correct, then PR would clearly be an exercise in futility. If
you have any data on this, I am sure this would be of interest here.

Clearly, the relative priorities given to PR in relation to identifying,
understanding, and cataloguing the world's biodiversity at the species
level is another matter, and there I agree with the contents of your

Wolfgang Wuster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, UK
e-mail: bss166 at bangor.ac.uk

Thought for the day: If you see a light at the end of the tunnel,
it is probably a train coming your way.

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