But that’s not the main takehome point from this story.
When researchers construct a family tree, or phylogeny, they can do so using different genes. By looking at the differences in a gene between species, they can understand how closely-related those species are. Often, researchers construct a phylogeny using a single gene. This can, however, give an inaccurate picture of the relationship between species — and can incorrectly place them.
Instead of relying on a single gene, the OIST team used up to 4065 genes from each termite species to construct the phylogeny. This provides a more reliable picture of how different species are related. They included 55 termite species from across the globe, representing all major lineages.
This tree indicated that the Sphaerotermitinae is, in fact, a sister of the comb building Macrotermitinae, a well-studied subfamily of termites. The two sisters both build combs, although only in the Macrotermitinae does this involve the cultivation of fungi for food. Sphaerotermitinae combs, meanwhile, appear to contain bacteria, although the species are not yet identified.
What the team can say, however, is that comb building emerged only once, several million years after the loss of gut symbionts in the ancestor of all Termitidae. – Materials provided by Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University. Original written by Christopher Richardson. More.
No mention here of a paper; perhaps it’s being shopped around.
But notice “Often, researchers construct a phylogeny using a single gene. This can, however, give an inaccurate picture of the relationship between species — and can incorrectly place them.” So the industrious team studied “used up to 4065 genes from each termite species to construct the phylogeny.” Good for them. But it raises the question, why—in the age of Big Gene—doesn’t everyone do that, instead of loudly proclaiming an evolutionary history based on a handful of genes? One is much less inclined to dismiss the evidence of thousands than a handful.
Some people who whine that the public doubts their evolution theories may have only themselves to blame.
See also: Did Anyone Predict This? Cloned Cat Looks Nothing Like The Original
There’s a gene for that… or is there?
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