The New Tree of Eukaryotes

Trends Ecol Evol. 2020 Jan;35(1):43-55. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.08.008. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


For 15 years, the eukaryote Tree of Life (eToL) has been divided into five to eight major groupings, known as 'supergroups'. However, the tree has been profoundly rearranged during this time. The new eToL results from the widespread application of phylogenomics and numerous discoveries of major lineages of eukaryotes, mostly free-living heterotrophic protists. The evidence that supports the tree has transitioned from a synthesis of molecular phylogenetics and biological characters to purely molecular phylogenetics. Most current supergroups lack defining morphological or cell-biological characteristics, making the supergroup label even more arbitrary than before. Going forward, the combination of traditional culturing with maturing culture-free approaches and phylogenomics should accelerate the process of completing and resolving the eToL at its deepest levels.

Keywords: phylogenomics; protists; supergroups; tree of eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eukaryota*
  • Eukaryotic Cells
  • Phylogeny