From early in the history of evolutionary thought “trees” have played an important role in the interpretation and communication of the relationships among species. In fact, Charles Darwin envisaged evolution having a tree-like form, with connecting branches representing common ancestry (Darwin, 1859:117). However, it is in recent decades that phylogenetic trees have become a fundamental part of evolutionary biology, largely as a result of the rapid expansion of genetic techniques and research. Phylogenetics now pervades a broad cross-section of disciplines, including systematics, comparative evolution, co-evolution, historical biogeography, and community evolution, just to name a few. Despite the central importance of phylogenetics in evolutionary biology, it is surprising the number of graduate students in this field who lack a deeper understanding of the conceptual basis of phylogenetic trees, while still being proficient at working with DNA and conducting phylogenetic...

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