Thursday, October 19, 2006

New tree of life for the kingdom Fungi

The October 19th edition of Nature includes an impressive article titled "Reconstructing the early evoluition of Fungi using a six-gene phyogeny." I don't know much about fungus or frankly about reconstructing phylogenies, but I was impressed with this paper for the massive number of authors who apparently came together to create this new phylogeny. From the News and Views commentary on the article:

"The cooperation among researchers that has resulted in the new paper is almost as impressive as the product itself. Systematics can be a fairly balkanized field, with specialists defending their turf or their analytical methods against perceived competitors. However, cooperation has always been common among fungal researchers because the field is woefully underpopulated. The James group included both traditional, morphologically based systematists, who contributed a wealth of knowledge on the organisms, and molecular systematists, who supplied the methodological and analytical techniques. Even Ralph Emerson, who died in 1979, made a notable posthumous contribution: it was his culture of Rozella, isolated in 1947, that made the sequence acquisition for this critical branch possible. This fusion of talents was essential to ensure that the broadest possible sample of fungi was selected, and that the data were collected and analysed rigorously. The results represent a proud moment for the field, and will be in the textbooks for some time to come." -- Tom Burns

It would be nice if ant folks could do the same. I count 71 authors on this paper. A quick search on web of science for articles with the words "ant" and "phylogeny" came up with 132 papers. The maximum author count was 10.

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