Extending the Reach of Phylogenetic Inference
One of the most cited articles in biology is a 1973 piece by Theodosius Dobzhansky in the periodical The American Biology Teacher entitled “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” It was also around that time that the development of computational approaches for the inference of phylogenies (evolutionary histories) started. Since then, phylogenetic inference has grown to become one of the standard research tools throughout biological and biomedical research. Today, phylogenetic tools receive over 10,000 citations every year. Concurrently, many groups are engaged in fundamental research in phylogenetic methods and in the design and study of computationally oriented models of evolution for systems ranging from simple genetic sequences through entire genomes to interaction networks. Yet, in spite of the fame of Dobzhansky’s article and the spread of phylogenetic methods beyond the original applications to systematics, the use of methods grounded in evolutionary biology is not as pervasive as it could be.