“Molecular Archeology” Study of Over 7,000 Genes in 100 Species Generates New Phylogenetic Tree for Jawed Vertebrates

Using the largest and most informative molecular phylogenetic dataset ever analyzed, evolutionary biologists were able to construct a new phylogenetic tree of jawed vertebrates. This new tree resolves several key relationships that have remained controversial, including the identification of lungfishes as the closest living relatives of land vertebrates. The evolution of jawed vertebrates is part of our own history because humans belong to the tetrapods more specifically we are mammals, or, even more specifically, primates. The study utilized a novel set of newly developed analyses for building and reconstructing, large-scale genomic datasets. In the future, this method might also be used to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships among other enigmatic groups of organisms that await resolution. The research was done as part of a large collaborative work among several laboratories, with evolutionary biologists Dr. Iker Irisarri and Professor Axel Meyer from the University of Konstanz (Germany) among the principal investigators. Their research results were published online in Nature Ecology & Evolution on July 24, 2017. The article is titled “Phylotranscriptomic Consolidation of the Jawed Vertebrate Timetree.” Fishes, amphibians, mammals, snakes, turtles, lizards, crocodiles, and birds are all groups of animals that include thousands of species and are morphologically very different from each other.
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