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Pattern analysis of phylogenetic trees could reveal connections between evolution, ecology

A simulated phylogenetic tree. Time runs from top to bottom, and nodes represent species, lines represent the mutations in DNA associated with the gene that is being studied. Bifurcations signify speciation events. This tree has a complex structure but is also fractal in a topological sense. Credit: Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign In biology, phylogenetic trees represent the evolutionary history and diversification of species—the “family tree” of Life. Phylogenetic trees not only describe the evolution of a group of organisms but can also be constructed from the organisms within a particular environment or ecosystem, such as the human microbiome. In this way, they can describe how this ecosystem evolved and what its functional capabilities might be.

Now, researchers have presented a new analysis of the patterns generated by phylogenetic trees , suggesting that they reflect previously hypothesized connections between evolution and ecology. The study was led by Swanlund Professor of Physics Nigel Goldenfeld, who also leads the Biocomplexity Group at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The other members of the team were graduate student Chi Xue and former undergraduate student Zhiru Li, now […]

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