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What is a phylogenetic tree?

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Quick Answer

A phylogenetic tree is a branching diagram that displays the connections in evolutionary history in a group of organisms. Modern phylogenetic trees generally take two forms, rooted and unrooted. Rooted trees suggest a common ancestor for all organisms on the tree, while the unrooted form connects in the middle.

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Phylogenetic trees are the contemporary descendants of the earlier concept of the "tree of life." Charles Darwin, in his book "The Origin of Species," took the "tree of life" concept and created one of the first modern evolutionary trees to illustrate his hypothesis of evolution.

The major problem of accuracy in a phylogenetic tree is knowing where and how to subdivide organisms. The taxonomy of organisms constantly changes as data is continuously discovered.

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