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Trends Ecol Evol. 2007 Jan;22(1):34-41. Epub 2006 Oct 13.

The supermatrix approach to systematics.

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Department of Biology, University of California at Riverside, USA.


Recent reviews of the construction of large phylogenies have focused on supertree methods that involve separate analyses of data sets and subsequent integration of the resulting trees. Here, we consider the alternative method of analyzing all character data simultaneously. Such 'supermatrix' analyses use information from each character directly and enable straightforward incorporation of diverse kinds of data, including characters from fossils. The approach has been extended by the development of new methods, including model-based techniques for analyzing heterogeneous data and hierarchical methods for constructing extremely large trees. Recent work also suggests that the problem of missing data in supermatrix analyses has been overstated. Although the supermatrix approach is not suited for all cases, we suggest that its inherent strengths will ensure that it will continue to have a central role in inferring large phylogenetic trees from diverse data.

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