Are phylogenetic patterns the same in anthropology and biology?

Are phylogenetic patterns the same in anthropology and biology?

David Morrison

The use of phylogenetic methods in anthropological fields such as archaeology, linguistics and stemmatology (involving what are often called ?culture data?) is based on an analogy between human cultural evolution and biological evolution. We need to understand this analogy thoroughly, including how well anthropology data fit the model of a phylogenetic tree, as used in biology. I provide a direct comparison of anthropology datasets with both phenotype and genotype datasets from biology. The anthropology datasets fit the tree model approximately as well as do the genotype data, which is detectably worse than the fit of the phenotype data. This is true for datasets with <500 parsimony-informative characters, as well as for larger datasets. This implies that cross-cultural (horizontal) processes have been important in the evolution of cultural artifacts, as well as branching historical (vertical) processes, and thus a phylogenetic network will be a more appropriate model than a phylogenetic tree.

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