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Dev Growth Differ. 2016 Jan;58(1):131-42. doi: 10.1111/dgd.12258. Epub 2016 Jan 5.

Incorporating tree-thinking and evolutionary time scale into developmental biology.

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Phyloinformatics Unit, RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies, 2-2-3 Minatojima-minami, Chuo-ku, Kobe, 650-0047, Japan.
Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.


Phylogenetic approaches are indispensable in any comparative molecular study involving multiple species. These approaches are in increasing demand as the amount and availability of DNA sequence information continues to increase exponentially, even for organisms that were previously not extensively studied. Without the sound application of phylogenetic concepts and knowledge, one can be misled when attempting to infer ancestral character states as well as the timing and order of evolutionary events, both of which are frequently exerted in evolutionary developmental biology. The ignorance of phylogenetic approaches can also impact non-evolutionary studies and cause misidentification of the target gene or protein to be examined in functional characterization. This review aims to promote tree-thinking in evolutionary conjecture and stress the importance of a sense of time scale in cross-species comparisons, in order to enhance the understanding of phylogenetics in all biological fields including developmental biology. To this end, molecular phylogenies of several developmental regulatory genes, including those denoted as "cryptic pan-vertebrate genes", are introduced as examples.


cryptic pan-vertebrate genes; hidden paralogy; molecular evolution; orthology; tree-thinking

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