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What is a monophyletic clade?

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Quick Answer

A monophyletic taxon is a group of organisms which includes their common ancestor and all other organisms derived from that ancestor. The term "monophyletic clade" is redundant, as a taxon that is not monophyletic is not considered a clade.

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Full Answer

An example of a clade, also known as a monophyletic taxon, is the group of organisms called mammals. All mammals are derived from a common ancestor, whether they carry their young in pouches, lay eggs or give birth. An example of a taxon that is not monophyletic is reptiles. Reptiles are commonly defined as scaly-skinned creatures with long tails and a sprawling gait; however, lizards and the other creatures familiarly called reptiles actually share a common ancestor with birds and mammals. Because the taxon excludes birds and reptiles, it is not a clade.

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