Thursday, June 26, 2008

Avian Tree of Life

I've recently been pulling together papers to review and post about order- and family- level relationships in birds, in part to help with some revisions of my advisor's Ornithology class. I was surprised and delighted to find Grrlscientist's post about a new paper in Science that reconstructs the avian tree with a whopping 19 loci. This is above and beyond any molecular study yet published at this level of avian systematics. It's a major shakeup, and it is also exactly what needed to be done to resolve the tree. Each molecular locus used adds an independent sample set to the tree, and multiple loci serve to make the analysis more robust. Typical trees often contain just a handful of loci (less than 5, I'd say, my own study contains 4), so this tree is likely the most robust and most accurate that we're going to get for the avian tree. Go see the review at Living the Scientific Life for now, when I incorporate this into my research on avian systematics I'll post as well.

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