The key difference between phenetics and cladistics is the method used in classifying organisms. Phenetics classifies organisms based on morphological and structural features while cladistics classifies organisms based on their ancestry and evolutionary relationships.
Classification of organisms is an important process in biodiversity and biological studies. Taxonomy facilitates the classification of various systems while helping in clustering and grouping of organisms. In this regard, phenetics and cladistics play an important role in building relationships among organisms.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Phenetics
3. What is Cladistics
4. Similarities Between Phenetics and Cladistics
5. Side by Side Comparison – Phenetics vs Cladistics in Tabular Form
What is Phenetics?
Phenetics is the area of study that classifies organisms based on their similarity. It may include classifying organisms based on their structure, morphology and other traits that are observable. Phenetics disregards evolutionary relationships. Therefore, it is a primitive way of classifying organisms. However, phenetics includes the usage of various techniques in order to build relationships among organisms. Clustering and ordination are two ways in which organisms undergo phenetic classification.
During phenetic classification, clustering or ordination of organisms takes place based on phenotypes that could be observed by the taxonomist or the scientist. Therefore, dozens of characters are analyzed before clustering organisms. Then the representation of these characters using graphs takes place. This leads to the grouping of the organisms.
The main drawback of phonetics is that there can be a misinterpretation of organisms into groups as only physical visible characters are considered. This could give false results during the classical clustering process. Therefore, in classifying, it is important to analyze many methods of grouping for accuracy, especially the phylogenetic data of organisms.
What is Cladistics?
Cladistics is the study area that classifies organisms based on their ancestry. Thus, cladistics considers evolutionary relationships. In cladistics, the most common recent ancestor of a particular organism plays a key role in the classification of that organism. Therefore, cladistics depends on evolutionary relationships of organisms since the similarity between organisms relies on evolutionary patterns.
In generating a classification of organisms based on cladistics, a cladogram is used. The cladogram is a tree-shaped diagram. Initially, during the generation of cladograms, physical and morphological characteristics were used. However, at present, cladistics depend mainly on genetic sequences and phylogeny. Therefore, cladograms are also referred to as phylogenetic trees at present. Furthermore, at present, cladistics uses morphological, evolutionary and phylogenetic data in classification.
The branches of the cladograms define various distances of similarity between the organisms and the deviation of organisms. The accuracy of classifying organisms based on cladistics is more accurate and efficient. Bioinformatics plays a major role in cladistics, increasing the accuracy and the acceptability of the results.
What are the Similarities Between Phenetics and Cladistics?
- Phenetics and cladistics are techniques of classifying organisms.
- They play an important role in the taxonomy of organisms.
What is the Difference Between Phenetics and Cladistics?
The key difference between phonetics and cladistics relies on the characteristics each method considers in classification. Thus, phenetics considers only structural and morphological characteristics, while cladistics considers evolutionary and ancestry characters. Due to this reason, the accuracy and reliability of the two techniques also vary. Moreover, the clustering process also differs in the two methods.
The below infographic presents more information regarding the difference between phenetics and cladistics.
Summary – Phenetics vs Cladistics
Phenetics and cladistics play a major role in classifying organisms. Taxonomists use both techniques to classify organisms into clusters, which is important in the correct identification of the organism. The key difference between phenetics and cladistics relies on the utilization of evolutionary relationships. While phenetics does not take evolutionary relationships and ancestry into consideration, cladistics considers both. Thus, the accuracy of cladistics is greater than the accuracy of phenetics in classifying organisms.
1. “Phenetics versus Cladistics and the Pro’s and Con’s of the Various Phylogeny Inference Methods.” Phenetics versus Cladistics, Available here.
1. “Identical cladograms” By Alexei Kouprianov – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
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