M. F. Mickevich, S. J. Weller

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93 Scopus citations


Abstract— There has been little formal discussion concerning character analysis in cladistics, even though characters and their character state trees are central to phylogenetic analyses. We refer to this field as Evolutionary Character Analysis. This paper defines the components of evolutionary character analysis: character state trees, transmodal characters, cladogram characters, attribute and character phylogenies; and the use of these components in phylogenetic inference and evolutionary studies. Character state trees and their effect on cladogram construction are discussed. A new method for numerically coding complex character state trees is described that further reduces the number of variables required to describe them. This method, ordinal coding, reduces the size of data matrices, and facilitates retrieval of state codes. This paper advocates the use of both biological evidence and evidence internal to the cladogram itself to construct character state trees (CSTs). We discuss general models of character evolution (morphocline analysis, Fitch minimum mutation model, etc.) and their role in forming CSTs. Character state trees formed with theories of character evolution are referred to as transmodal characters. These transmodal characters are contrasted with cladogram characters (Mickevich, 1982), and the place of each in a phylogenetic analysis is discussed. The method for determining cladogram characters is detailed with more complicated examples than found in previous publications. We advocate testing transmodal characters by comparing them with the resultant cladogram characters. This comparison involves transformation series analysis (TSA; Mickevich, 1982) which is viewed as an extension of reciprocal illumination. The TSA procedure and its place in hypothesis testing are reviewed. Tracing the evolution of characters interests both systematists and non‐systematists alike. When character state trees (transmodal characters) are optimized on pre‐existing phylogenies, character phylogenies and attribute phylogenies result. Attributes are defined as a feature that may or may not be homologous (i.e., ecological categories, plant hosts, etc.). We provide two illustrations of this approach, one involving the evolution of the anuran ear and another involving the coevolution of the butterfly Heliconius and its hostplants. Finally, the components of phylogenetic character analysis can be used to test more general evolutionary theories such as the biogenetic law and vicariance biogeography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-170
Number of pages34
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1990


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