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An introduction to biological systematics


Unit image

This unit is from our archive. It is an adapted extract from the Science (S365) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] module that is no longer in presentation. If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the courses we offer in this Curriculum Area

This unit is concerned with macroevolution the patterns and processes of evolution above the species level.

A crucial consideration in macroevolutionary studies is that of the evolutionary relationships (phylogeny) of the organisms in question. The unit begins with an introduction to the scope of macroevolutionary studies and illustrates methods of reconstructing phylogeny, from both morphological and molecular data.

It is important to appreciate the differences between the three methods of phylogenetic analysis that are described, namely

  • evolutionary systematics

  • phenetics

  • cladistics

A further illustration of these concepts is provided by a sequence of audio clips featuring the late Dr. Colin Patterson, which will give you a second chance to familiarise yourself with the concepts involved.