Fifty years of character compatibility concepts at work
George F. ESTABROOK (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 4809-1048, USA)
In the mid 19th century, systematic biologists realized that observable similarities and differences among a group of related species could be the basis for hypotheses about the evolutionary relationships among the species and their ancestors. Such hypotheses can be expressed as characters. A character is comprised of two or more character states of species considered to be similar with respect to a basis for comparison. The states of a character may also be arranged into a character state tree to hypothesize speciation events associated with changes from one character state to another. In the mid 20th century, some systematists realized that sometimes pairs of characters (or character state trees) could be incompatible as hypotheses, i.e., they could not both be true. Through the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, tests for, and ways to resolve, incompatibilities were used to estimate an ancestor rela- tion based on mutually compatible characters. An estimate was often shown as a diagram connecting ancestors to their immediate descendants (not quite correctly) called a phylogenetic tree. More recently, other applications of compatibility concepts have been developed, including: identify characters that appear to be random in the context of their data set; combine estimates of ancestor relations for subsets of taxa in a larger collection into a single estimate (a so-called supertree) for the whole collection; and interpret geographic patterns in an evolutionary context.
【CateGory Index】： Q941