[Taxacom] Why character-tracking doesn't happen?

Curtis Clark jcclark-lists at earthlink.net
Sat Sep 13 10:00:27 CDT 2008

On 2008-09-11 20:53, Bob Mesibov wrote:
> There were no serious nibbles at the bait I dangled here recently on
> character-tracking, i.e. investigating apparent homoplasy as a way to
> evaluate the plausibility of a phylogenetic hypothesis.

Back when I was in "the biz", my main interest was character evolution: 
what people used to call the evolution of adaptations. Much of the older 
literature had been "just-so stories", or else attempts to look at 
similar adaptations across broad swaths of diversity in a statistical 
fashion, independent of whether they were homology or homoplasy.

Character tracking is a natural outgrowth of that. I was of the school 
of thought that excluded "obvious" homoplasy from analyses, so whenever 
something came up homoplastic, there was always at least some amount of 
"Man! I sure wasn't expecting *that*!"

Of course, just because a character is homoplastic at one node doesn't 
mean that it will be at every node, so there's little value in 
generalizing, but it still seems obvious to me that the only useful way 
to study character evolution is in a phylogenetic framework.

Curtis Clark                  http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
Director, I&IT Web Development                   +1 909 979 6371
University Web Coordinator, Cal Poly Pomona

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