There has been discussion and research for decades into support values for phylogenetic nodes and the relative quality of different phylogenies as a whole. Here is a new and impressive (although clearly subjective) criteria for confidence in a phylogenetic tree- “I am so confident in this tree I have had it tattooed onto my body”!!!
The Loom has been posting pictures in the Science Tattoo Emporium for a while now and I noticed that there are 4 phylogeny tattoos. So ask yourself, how confident are you in that tree you just built? Confident enough to show it to a colleague? Confident enough to publish it? Or confident enough to live with it forever?
But what if further analysis, or data collection, shows it to be wrong? This happens frequently, even with apparently very good quality trees. Do you then say to your grandchildren “yes this tattoo is how we saw eukaryotic phylogeny in 2004. Its wrong of course, pass me that pen and I’ll fix it to show you where the basal amoebae really fall“.
Some trees of course don’t really have to be right, such as Darwin’s first tree diagram, or Haeckel’s Tree of Life, they are just beautiful and important.
Others, such as the one pictured at the top of the blog, are more specific, depicting the “5 kingdoms” or this one on the evolutionary history of HIV. Truly impressive, but after some thought, maybe not for me.