Understanding Evolution

Understanding phylogenies (2 of 2)

A clade is a grouping that includes a common ancestor and all the descendants (living and extinct) of that ancestor. Using a phylogeny, it is easy to tell if a group of lineages forms a clade. Imagine clipping a single branch off the phylogeny — all of the organisms on that pruned branch make up a clade.

Examples of what is, and is not, a clade

Clades are nested within one another — they form a nested hierarchy. A clade may include many thousands of species or just a few. Some examples of clades at different levels are marked on the phylogenies below. Notice how clades are nested within larger clades.

Nested clades

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So far, we've said that the tips of a phylogeny represent descendent lineages. Depending on how many branches of the tree you are including however, the descendants at the tips might be different populations of a species, different species, or different clades, each composed of many species.


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Understanding Evolution © 2015 by The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California