Phylogenetic supertrees: Assembling the trees of life

Trends Ecol Evol. 1998 Mar;13(3):105-9. doi: 10.1016/S0169-5347(97)01242-1.


Systematists and comparative biologists commonly want to make statements about relationships among taxa that have never been collectively included in any single phylogenetic analysis. Construction of phylogenetic 'supertrees' provides one solution. Supertrees are estimates of phylogeny assembled from sets of smaller estimates (source trees) sharing some but not necessarily all their taxa in common. If certain conditions are met, supertrees can retain all or most of the information from the source trees and also make novel statements about relationships of taxa that do not co-occur on any one source tree. Supertrees have commonly been constructed using subjective and informal approaches, but several explicit approaches have recently been proposed.