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A Family Tree

October 14, 2012


This week, Biology in Science Fiction class goes to Pandora for Avatar. We’ll explore the phylogeny of Pandoran creatures, asking questions such as, when did the banshees diverge from the Na’vi?

For warm-up, try the exercise above, to calculate the divergence tree of plant species on a different planet, Ralinius. The plant genomes were mapped by DNA sequence comparison. The table above shows the percent similarity for all pairs of plant species. Assuming that mutations accumulate at 0.5% per million years, can you draw a phylogenetic tree?

One Comment
  1. Heteromeles permalink
    October 17, 2012 8:49 pm

    Following the rules laid out here:


    Where the BD clade diverged from the ACE clade around 90 million years BP. B (Lirex) and D (Yumps) diverged from each other around 50 myr BP. C (Ocean Grass) diverged from the AE clade around 28 myr BP, while A (Emerged Weed) and E (Mirro Weed) diverged from each other around 12 million years ago.

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