Blackwell Publishing

The rise of evolutionary biology - How are computers used in evolutionary biology?


Computers and evolutionary biology

The dramatic advances in computing power over the past 15 years have provided researchers in evolutionary biology with an important new research tool. Computers have proved particularly useful in two main ways:

• Simulating evolution

Developments in evolution can take many thousands of generations, and so it is difficult, outside of microbiology, to conduct laboratory experiments. Computer simulations have been used to study evolution over many generations in a matter of hours.

• Phylogenetic inference

Another important consequence of computing power in evolutionary biology is in phylogenetic inference. The large amounts of molecular data now used mean that there can be an enormous number of possible phylogenetic trees for a group of species: this search space can only be explored by powerful computers which were unavailable 10 years ago.

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