Understanding a phylogeny is a lot like reading a family tree. The root of the tree represents the ancestral lineage, and the tips of the branches represent the descendants of that ancestor. As you move from the root to the tips, you are moving forward in time.
When a lineage splits (speciation), it is represented as branching on a phylogeny. When a speciation event occurs, a single ancestral lineage gives rise to two or more daughter lineages.
Phylogenies trace patterns of shared ancestry between lineages. Each lineage has a part of its history that is unique to it alone and parts that are shared with other lineages.
Similarly, each lineage has ancestors that are unique to that lineage and ancestors that are shared with other lineages common ancestors.
View this article online at:
Understanding Evolution © 2018 by The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California