Morphological Phylogenetics in the Genomic Age

Mike Lee, Alessandro Palci

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    128 Citations (Scopus)


    Evolutionary trees underpin virtually all of biology, and the wealth of new genomic data has enabled us to reconstruct them with increasing detail and confidence. While phenotypic (typically morphological) traits are becoming less important in reconstructing evolutionary trees, they still serve vital and unique roles in phylogenetics, even for living taxa for which vast amounts of genetic information are available. Morphology remains a powerful independent source of evidence for testing molecular clades, and - through fossil phenotypes - the primary means for time-scaling phylogenies. Morphological phylogenetics is therefore vital for transforming undated molecular topologies into dated evolutionary trees. However, if morphology is to be employed to its full potential, biologists need to start scrutinising phenotypes in a more objective fashion, models of phenotypic evolution need to be improved, and approaches for analysing phenotypic traits and fossils together with genomic data need to be refined.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)R922-R929
    Number of pages8
    JournalCurrent Biology
    Issue number19
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2015


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