COMMENT
JOURNAL ARTICLE

[Foundations of the new phylogenetics]

I Ia Pavlinov
Zhurnal Obshcheĭ Biologii 2004, 65 (4): 334-66
15490579
Evolutionary idea is the core of the modern biology. Due to this, phylogenetics dealing with historical reconstructions in biology takes a priority position among biological disciplines. The second half of the 20th century witnessed growth of a great interest to phylogenetic reconstructions at macrotaxonomic level which replaced microevolutionary studies dominating during the 30s-60s. This meant shift from population thinking to phylogenetic one but it was not revival of the classical phylogenetics; rather, a new approach emerged that was baptized The New Phylogenetics. It arose as a result of merging of three disciplines which were developing independently during 60s-70s, namely cladistics, numerical phyletics, and molecular phylogenetics (now basically genophyletics). Thus, the new phylogenetics could be defined as a branch of evolutionary biology aimed at elaboration of "parsimonious" cladistic hypotheses by means of numerical methods on the basis of mostly molecular data. Classical phylogenetics, as a historical predecessor of the new one, emerged on the basis of the naturphilosophical worldview which included a superorganismal idea of biota. Accordingly to that view, historical development (the phylogeny) was thought an analogy of individual one (the ontogeny) so its most basical features were progressive parallel developments of "parts" (taxa), supplemented with Darwinian concept of monophyly. Two predominating traditions were diverged within classical phylogenetics according to a particular interpretation of relation between these concepts. One of them (Cope, Severtzow) belittled monophyly and paid most attention to progressive parallel developments of morphological traits. Such an attitude turned this kind of phylogenetics to be rather the semogenetics dealing primarily with evolution of structures and not of taxa. Another tradition (Haeckel) considered both monophyletic and parallel origins of taxa jointly: in the middle of 20th century it was split into phylistics (Rasnitsyn's term; close to Simpsonian evolutionary taxonomy) belonging rather to the classical realm, and Hennigian cladistics that pays attention to origin of monophyletic taxa exclusively. In early of the 20th century, microevolutionary doctrine became predominating in evolutionary studies. Its core is the population thinking accompanied by the phenetic one based on equation of kinship to overall similarity. They were connected to positivist philosophy and hence were characterized by reductionism at both ontological and epistemological levels. It led to fall of classical phylogenetics but created the prerequisites for the new phylogenetics which also appeared to be full of reductionism. The new rise of phylogenetic (rather than tree) thinking during the last third of the 20th century was caused by lost of explanatory power of population one and by development of the new worldview and new epistemological premises. That new worldview is based on the synergetic (Prigoginian) model of development of non-equilibrium systems: evolution of the biota, a part of which is phylogeny, is considered as such a development. At epistemological level, the principal premise appeared to be fall of positivism which was replaced by post-positivism argumentation schemes. Input of cladistics into new phylogenetics is twofold. On the one hand, it reduced phylogeny to cladistic history lacking any adaptivist interpretation and presuming minimal evolution model. From this it followed reduction of kinship relation to sister-group relation lacking any reference to real time scale and to ancestor-descendant relation. On the other hand, cladistics elaborated methodology of phylogenetic reconstructions based on the synapomorphy principle, the outgroup concept became its part. The both inputs served as premises of incorporation of both numerical techniques and molecular data into phylogenetic reconstruction. Numerical phyletics provided the new phylogenetics with easily manipulated algorithms of cladogram construing and thus made phylogenetic reconstructions operational and repetitive. The above phenetic formula "kinship = similarity" appeared to be a keystone for development of the genophyletics. Within numerical phyletics, a lot of computer programs were elaborated which allow to manipulate with evolutionary scenario during phylogenetic reconstructions. They make it possible to reconstruct both clado- and semogeneses based on the same formalized methods. Multiplicity of numerical approaches indicates that, just as in the case of numerical phenetics, choice of adequate method(s) should be based on biologically sound theory. The main input of genophyletics (= molecular phylogenetics) into the new phylogenetics was due to completely new factology which makes it possible to compare directly such far distant taxa as prokaryotes and higher eukaryotes. Genophyletics is based on the theory of neutral evolution borrowed from microevolutionary theory and on the molecular clock hypothesis which is now considered largely inadequate. The future developments of genophyletics will be aimed at clarification of such fundamental (and "classical" by origin) problems as application of character and homology concepts to molecular structures. The new phylogenetics itself is differentiated into several schools caused basically by diversity of various approaches existing within each of its "roots". Cladistics makes new phylogenetics splitted into evolutionary and parsimonious ontological viewpoints. Numerical phyletics divides it into statistical and (again) parsimonious methodologies. Molecular phylogenetics is opposite by its factological basis to morphological one. The new phylogenetics has significance impact onto the "newest" systematics. From one side, it gives ontological status back to macrotaxa they have lost due to "new" systematics based on population thinking. From another side, it rejects some basical principles of classical phylogenetic (originally Linnean) taxonomy such as recognitions of fixed taxonomic ranks designated by respective terms and definition of taxic names not by the diagnostic characters but by reference to the ancestor. The latter makes the PhyloCode overburdened ideologically and the "newest" systematics self-controversial, as concept of ancestor has been acknowledged non-operational from the very beginning of cladistics. Relation between classical and new phylogenetics is twofold. At the one hand, general phylogenetic hypothesis (in its classical sense) can be treated as a combination of cladogenetic and semogenetic reconstructions. Such a consideration is bound to pay close attention to the uncertainty relation principle which, in case of the phylogenetics, means that the general phylogenetic hypothesis cannot be more certain than any of initial cladogenetic or semogenetic hypotheses. From this standpoint, the new phylogenetics makes it possible to reconstruct phylogeny following epistemological principle "from simple to complex". It elaborates a kind of null hypotheses about evolutionary history which are more easy to test as compared to classical hypotheses. Afterward, such hypotheses are possible to be completed toward the classical, more content-wise ones by adding anagenetic information to the cladogenetic one. At another hand, reconstructions elaborated within the new phylogenetics could be considered as specific null hypotheses about both clado- and semogeneses. They are to be tested subsequently by mean of various models, including those borrowed from "classical" morphology. The future development of the new phylogenetics is supposed to be connected with getting out of plethora of reductionism inherited by it from population thinking and specification of object domain of the phylogenetics. As the latter is a part of an evolutionary theory, its future developments will be adjusted with the latter. Lately predominating neodarwinism is now being replaced by the epigenetic evolutionary theory to which phylistics (one of the modern versions of classical phylogenetics) seems to be more correspondent.

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