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See also: Crown group Monophyly_sentence_0

In cladistics for a group of organisms, monophyly is the condition of being a clade—that is, a group of taxa composed only of a common ancestor (or more precisely an ancestral population) and all of its lineal descendants. Monophyly_sentence_1

Monophyletic groups are typically characterised by shared derived characteristics (synapomorphies), which distinguish organisms in the clade from other organisms. Monophyly_sentence_2

An equivalent term is holophyly. Monophyly_sentence_3

The word "mono-phyly" means "one-tribe" in Greek. Monophyly_sentence_4

Monophyly is contrasted with paraphyly and polyphyly as shown in the second diagram. Monophyly_sentence_5

A paraphyletic group consists of all of the descendants of a common ancestor minus one or more monophyletic groups. Monophyly_sentence_6

A polyphyletic group is characterized by convergent features or habits of scientific interest (for example, night-active primates, fruit trees, aquatic insects). Monophyly_sentence_7

The features by which a polyphyletic group is differentiated from others are not inherited from a common ancestor. Monophyly_sentence_8

These definitions have taken some time to be accepted. Monophyly_sentence_9

When the cladistics school of thought became mainstream in the 1960s, several alternative definitions were in use. Monophyly_sentence_10

Indeed, taxonomists sometimes used terms without defining them, leading to confusion in the early literature, a confusion which persists. Monophyly_sentence_11

The first diagram shows a phylogenetic tree with two monophyletic groups. Monophyly_sentence_12

The several groups and subgroups are particularly situated as branches of the tree to indicate ordered lineal relationships between all the organisms shown. Monophyly_sentence_13

Further, any group may (or may not) be considered a taxon by modern systematics, depending upon the selection of its members in relation to their common ancestor(s); see second and third diagrams. Monophyly_sentence_14

Etymology Monophyly_section_0

The term monophyly, or monophyletic, derives from the two Ancient Greek words (mónos), meaning "alone, only, unique", and (phûlon), meaning "genus, species", and refers to the fact that a monophyletic group includes organisms (e.g., genera, species) consisting of all the descendants of a unique common ancestor. Monophyly_sentence_15

Conversely, the term polyphyly, or polyphyletic, builds on the ancient Greek prefix (polús), meaning "many, a lot of", and refers to the fact that a polyphyletic group includes organisms arising from multiple ancestral sources. Monophyly_sentence_16

By comparison, the term paraphyly, or paraphyletic, uses the ancient Greek prefix (pará), meaning "beside, near", and refers to the situation in which one or several monophyletic subgroups are left apart from all other descendants of a unique common ancestor. Monophyly_sentence_17

That is, a paraphyletic group is nearly monophyletic, hence the prefix pará. Monophyly_sentence_18

Definitions Monophyly_section_1

On the broadest scale, definitions fall into two groups. Monophyly_sentence_19


  • Willi Hennig (1966:148) defined monophyly as groups based on synapomorphy (in contrast to paraphyletic groups, based on symplesiomorphy, and polyphyletic groups, based on convergence). Some authors have sought to define monophyly to include paraphyly as any two or more groups sharing a common ancestor. However, this broader definition encompasses both monophyletic and paraphyletic groups as defined above. Therefore, most scientists today restrict the term "monophyletic" to refer to groups consisting of all the descendants of one (hypothetical) common ancestor. However, when considering taxonomic groups such as genera and species, the most appropriate nature of their common ancestor is unclear. Assuming that it would be one individual or mating pair is unrealistic for sexually reproducing species, which are by definition interbreeding populations.Monophyly_item_0_0
  • Monophyly (also, holophyly) and associated terms are restricted to discussions of taxa, and are not necessarily accurate when used to describe what Hennig called tokogenetic relationships—now referred to as genealogies. Some argue that using a broader definition, such as a species and all its descendants, does not really work to define a genus. The loose definition also fails to recognize the relations of all organisms. According to D. M. Stamos, a satisfactory cladistic definition of a species or genus is impossible because many species (and even genera) may form by "budding" from an existing species, leaving the parent species paraphyletic; or the species or genera may be the result of hybrid speciation.Monophyly_item_0_1
  • Moreover, the concepts of monophyly, paraphyly, and polyphyly have been used in deducing key genes for barcoding of diverse group of species.Monophyly_item_0_2

See also Monophyly_section_2


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