Quantifying the potential utility of phylogenetic characters

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Abstract:

There has been a long history of interest in measuring the information conveyed by phylogenetic data. In one application, recent studies have attempted to compare the informativeness of morphological and molecular data, and of nucleotide and amino acid sequence alignments. While a variety of measures have been proposed to quantify phylogenetic information, most measures are rather unsatisfactory, failing to capture every aspect of the informativeness of a character. One measure, cladistic information content (CIC) is a natural measure of phylogenetic information. We show why CIC is preferable to other, recently introduced, measures, and, as an example, use CIC to compare the information of recent morphological and molecular datasets. This provides new empirical data relevant to the debate about the relative utility of morphology and molecules in phylogenetic inference, a subject of significant interest.

Keywords: CLADISTIC INFORMATION CONTENT; COMPATIBILITY; INFORMATION THEORY; MOLECULAR DATA; MORPHOLOGY

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, U.K.; School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, London E1 4NS, U.K. 2: Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, U.K.

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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