The Future of Systematics: Tree-Thinking Without the Tree

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Velasco, Joel D.
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preprint description
Phylogenetic trees are meant to represent the genealogical history of life and apparently derive their justification from the existence of the tree of life and the fact that evolutionary processes are tree-like. However, there are a number of problems for these assumptions. Here it is argued that once we understand the important role that phylogenetic trees play as models which contain idealizations, we can accept these criticisms and deny the reality of the tree while justifying the continued use of trees in phylogenetic theory and preserving nearly all of what defenders of trees have called “the importance of tree-thinking.”