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Database gives access to the latest findings about the tree of life
Date:3/29/2010

Durham, NC If scientists have identified some two million species, where can you find the latest information about the tree of life that unites them all? A vastly improved database gives scientists and educators access to state-of-the-art knowledge about the evolutionary relationships among living things.

TreeBASE a database designed to help scientists store, share, and study evolutionary trees was first developed in the mid-1990s as way to archive the vast amounts of phylogenetic information accumulating in the literature.

"Phylogenies were being published at an explosive rate," said Bill Piel of Yale University. "What we needed was a database where we could compile them so people could use them later."

The database allows researchers to archive and retrieve published phylogenetic trees and data from different studies. "People can store sequence alignments, morphological character sets, and the resulting phylogenetic trees all in digital form. They can also be recovered and reanalyzed or combined with other data," Piel said.

Since the first prototype was developed, researchers have contributed more than 6,500 trees from over 2400 articles, describing the relationships among well over 60,000 terminal taxa. A variety of journals now require their authors to deposit phylogenetic data in TreeBASE, and peer reviewers are given anonymous access to the data prior to publication.

Years of work have gone into improving and upgrading the original version. "At some point we knew we had to make it bigger and better," said Michael Donoghue of Yale University. Now, a team of biologists and computer scientists is releasing a new version that is completely rebuilt. With this upgrade, the database is poised to become an increasingly valuable resource for a number of fields, including conservation biology, biogeography, and education, developers say.

"We have introduced a wide variety of features that didn't e
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Contact: Todd Vision
tjv@bio.unc.edu
919-668-4596
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Source:Eurekalert

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