Status of plant systematics

Una Smith una at DOLIOLUM.BIOLOGY.YALE.EDU
Mon Sep 8 10:25:39 CDT 1997


The paper I had most particularly in mind (Huelsenbeck 1991, I believe)
involves the generation of known (hence true) trees, and attempts to
reconstruct those true trees using standard cladistic method.  Given a
skewed distribution of tree lengths, it was usually the case that the
true tree was in the tail of the distribution near the shortest tree.

As Richard Zander emphasizes, the true tree is usually NOT the shortest
tree.  Thus, I think it is inappropriate to propose a formal revision
of some group's classification merely on the basis of having found one
or more shortest trees that differ from conventional wisdom!  Students
at meetings who won't be drawn into defending their results as correct
have the right idea.  On the other hand, I think that looking for the
shortest tree is useful.  Cladograms have certainly made me think hard
about systematic problems concerning some plants I've studied.

        Una Smith


@article{Huelsenbeck1991,
   author =  {John P. Huelsenbeck},
   title =   {Tree-length distribution skewness:
             an indicator of phylogenetic information},
   journal = {Systematic Zoology},
   volume =  40,
   pages =   {257--270},
   year =    1991,
   comment = {phylogeny reconstruction},
}




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