Synthesis of phylogeny and taxonomy into a comprehensive tree of life

Cody E. Hinchliff, Stephen A. Smith, James F. Allman, J. Gordon Burleigh, Ruchi Chaudhary, Lyndon M. Coghill, Keith A. Crandall, Jiabin Deng, Bryan T. Drew, Romina Gazis, Karl Gude, David S. Hibbett, Laura A. Katz, H. Dail Laughinghouse, Emily Jane McTavish, Peter E. Midford, Christopher L. Owen, Richard H. Ree, Jonathan A. Rees, Douglas E. SoltiscTiffani Williams, Karen A. Cranston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

288 Scopus citations

Abstract

Reconstructing the phylogenetic relationships that unite all lineages (the tree of life) is a grand challenge. The paucity of homologous character data across disparately related lineages currently renders direct phylogenetic inference untenable. To reconstruct a comprehensive tree of life, we therefore synthesized published phylogenies, together with taxonomic classifications for taxa never incorporated into a phylogeny.We present a draft tree containing 2.3 million tipsâ€" the Open Tree of Life. Realization of this tree required the assembly of two additional community resources: (i) a comprehensive global reference taxonomy and (ii) a database of published phylogenetic trees mapped to this taxonomy. Our open source framework facilitates community comment and contribution, enabling the tree to be continuously updated when new phylogenetic and taxonomic data become digitally available. Although data coverage and phylogenetic conflict across the Open Tree of Life illuminate gaps in both the underlying data available for phylogenetic reconstruction and the publication of trees as digital objects, the tree provides a compelling starting point for community contribution. This comprehensive tree will fuel fundamental research on the nature of biological diversity, ultimately providing up-to-date phylogenies for downstream applications in comparative biology, ecology, conservation biology, climate change, agriculture, and genomics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12764-12769
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number41
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 13 2015

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Phylogeny
  • Synthesis
  • Taxonomy
  • Tree of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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