The evolution of supertrees

Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Jun;19(6):315-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2004.03.015.


Supertrees result from combining many smaller, overlapping phylogenetic trees into a single, more comprehensive tree. As such, supertree construction is probably as old as the field of systematics itself, and remains our only way of visualizing the Tree of Life as a whole. Over the past decade, supertree construction has gained a more formal, objective footing, and has become an area of active theoretical and practical research. Here, I review the history of the supertree approach, focusing mainly on its current implementation. The supertrees of today represent some of the largest, complete phylogenies available for many groups, but are not without their critics. I conclude by arguing that the ever-growing molecular revolution will result in supertree construction taking on a new role and implementation in the future for analyzing large DNA sequence matrices as part of a divide-and-conquer phylogenetic approach.