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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Oct 13;112(41):12764-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1423041112. Epub 2015 Sep 18.

Synthesis of phylogeny and taxonomy into a comprehensive tree of life.

Author information

1
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109;
2
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; karen.cranston@gmail.com eebsmith@umich.edu.
3
Interrobang Corporation, Wake Forest, NC 27587;
4
Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611;
5
Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL 60605;
6
Computational Biology Institute, George Washington University, Ashburn, VA 20147;
7
Department of Biology, University of Nebraska-Kearney, Kearney, NE 68849;
8
Department of Biology, Clark University, Worcester, MA 01610;
9
School of Journalism, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824;
10
Biological Science, Clark Science Center, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063;
11
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045;
12
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Duke University, Durham, NC 27705;
13
Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611;
14
Computer Science and Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843.
15
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Duke University, Durham, NC 27705; karen.cranston@gmail.com eebsmith@umich.edu.

Abstract

Reconstructing the phylogenetic relationships that unite all lineages (the tree of life) is a grand challenge. The paucity of homologous character data across disparately related lineages currently renders direct phylogenetic inference untenable. To reconstruct a comprehensive tree of life, we therefore synthesized published phylogenies, together with taxonomic classifications for taxa never incorporated into a phylogeny. We present a draft tree containing 2.3 million tips-the Open Tree of Life. Realization of this tree required the assembly of two additional community resources: (i) a comprehensive global reference taxonomy and (ii) a database of published phylogenetic trees mapped to this taxonomy. Our open source framework facilitates community comment and contribution, enabling the tree to be continuously updated when new phylogenetic and taxonomic data become digitally available. Although data coverage and phylogenetic conflict across the Open Tree of Life illuminate gaps in both the underlying data available for phylogenetic reconstruction and the publication of trees as digital objects, the tree provides a compelling starting point for community contribution. This comprehensive tree will fuel fundamental research on the nature of biological diversity, ultimately providing up-to-date phylogenies for downstream applications in comparative biology, ecology, conservation biology, climate change, agriculture, and genomics.

KEYWORDS:

biodiversity; phylogeny; synthesis; taxonomy; tree of life

PMID:
26385966
PMCID:
PMC4611642
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1423041112
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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