The recently-developed statistical method known as the "bootstrap" can be used to place confidence intervals on phylogenies. It involves resampling points from one's own data, with replacement, to create a series of bootstrap samples of the same size as the original data. Each of these is analyzed, and the variation among the resulting estimates taken to indicate the size of the error involved in making estimates from the original data. In the case of phylogenies, it is argued that the proper method of resampling is to keep all of the original species while sampling characters with replacement, under the assumption that the characters have been independently drawn by the systematist and have evolved independently. Majority-rule consensus trees can be used to construct a phylogeny showing all of the inferred monophyletic groups that occurred in a majority of the bootstrap samples. If a group shows up 95% of the time or more, the evidence for it is taken to be statistically significant. Existing computer programs can be used to analyze different bootstrap samples by using weights on the characters, the weight of a character being how many times it was drawn in bootstrap sampling. When all characters are perfectly compatible, as envisioned by Hennig, bootstrap sampling becomes unnecessary; the bootstrap method would show significant evidence for a group if it is defined by three or more characters.
© 1985 The Society for the Study of Evolution.