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Date:4/24/2008

likely be filled through the use of high-powered analytic approaches pioneered in Dunn's study--which involved using more than 100 computers to analyze more data than incorporated into any previous comparable evolutionary study. "Dunn's high-powered approach is just what we need to continue assembling the tree of life," says Herendeen. "We are going to see a lot of this approach in the future."

Dunn explains one of the advantages of his team's approach: "Even though we looked at fewer than 100 species, they were sampled in such a way that they inform the relationships of major groups of animals relative to each other. Therefore, this study, and others like it, will have implications for the placement of far more species than just those that are sampled."

Remaining Challenges

But no matter how many high-tech analytic tools scientists use to analyze the genetics of organisms, they must still conquer "the exact same challenges that naturalists faced 200 years ago," says Dunn. "We still don't even know enough about many species to have a good idea where to look for them."

"And even as it is getting easier and cheaper to analyze the DNA of organisms with increasingly powerful computers, it is getting more expensive and difficult to find, collect, and identify organisms." For example, Dunn's team had to use remotely operated underwater vehicles to collect one of the comb jellies included in this study.

Dunn concludes: "It may come as a surprise to some that the many that huge advances in technology actually bring us right back to the same challenges that naturalists faced 200 years ago: the day-to-day practical challenges of just figuring out what lives on our planet, where to find it and how to collect it."


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Contact: Lily Whiteman
lwhitema@nsf.gov
703-292-8310
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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