NCEAS Product 11660

Bininda-Emonds, Olaf R. P.; Gittleman, John L.; Steel, M. A. 2002. The (super)tree of life: Procedures, problems, and prospects. Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and Systematics. Vol: 33. Pages 265-289. (Abstract) (Online version)


Supertree construction is a new, rigorous approach for combining phylogenetic information to produce more inclusive phylogenies. It has been used to provide some of the largest, most complete phylogenies for diverse groups (e.g., mammals, flowering plants, and dinosaurs) at a variety of taxonomic levels. We critically review methods for assembling supertrees, discuss some of their more interesting mathematical properties, and describe the strengths and limitations of the supertree approach. To document the need for supertrees in biology, we identify how supertrees have already been used beyond the systematic information they provide to examine models of evolution, test rates of cladogenesis, detect patterns of trait evolution, and extend phylogenetic information to biodiversity conservation.