Une histoire de géométrie et de finesse (ou : comment parler de phylogénétique ?)

Pascal TASSY

fr Comptes Rendus Palevol 10 (5-6) - Pages 341-346

Published on 30 September 2011

This article is a part of the thematic issue Perspectives on vertebrate evolution: Topics and problems

A story of geometry and finesse (or: do you speak phylogenetics?)

The development of phylogenetic methods since the beginning of the 1970s is analyzed through Armand de Ricqlès’ comment, in 1975, on the triumph of the spirit of geometry over the spirit of finesse. Cladistics was then compared to geometry (Hennig's congruence [i.e. congruent character-state trees]). However, the qualitative aspect of anatomy (spirit of finesse) warrants the quality of a taxon × character matrix so that minimal length trees were never devoid of finesse. Statistical approaches, especially maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods, with sophisticated mathematics (more rigorous geometry?), have reached a wide acceptance after years of debates hindered by polemics. The molecular trees based on these approaches are now dominating the phylogenetic literature, although these trees too include some ambiguity so that one can wonder: do evolutionary models belong to geometry or finesse?


Phylogeny, Cladistics, Parsimony, Maximum likelihood, Bayesian method

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