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Visualizing Diatom Evolution

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28 January, 2014

Sarah Spaulding

There is currently a disconnect between the system of diatom names, or taxonomy, and the evolutionary relationships of diatoms, or phylogenies. Teo Nakov, a doctoral candidate at University of Texas, Austin, is working to change that. Teo has launched a website to serve as a repository for diatom phylogenies, expressed as evolutionary trees.

The website uses the functionality of a graphical display tool, called OneZoom, to allow users to explore the evolutionary relationships of diatom lineages. While OneZoom is intended for visualisation of extremely large trees, it is useful for smaller phylogenies, too. The tool allows for easy investigation of relationships by scrolling, zooming and searching within a browser. OneZoom eliminates the need for special “tree-viewing” software. The application also has a nice cartoon-like representation of trees growing though time and can be used to make animated movies.

A collection of diatom phylogenies can be found on the link on this page. To date, Teo has included diatom phylogenies that have been published on the Thalassiosirales (Alverson 2014), Pinnularia (Soffreau et al. 2011), diatoms and eukaryotes (Theriot et al. 2009), diatoms and Bolidomonas (Theriot et al. 2010) and raphid diatoms (Ruck and Theriot 2011). Teo plans to post additional diatom trees in the near future, with the goal of creating a repository for every diatom tree.

Get involved! There are many ways for the diatomist community to contribute: 1) send/upload a tree from your paper, 2) edit names in already uploaded trees for taxonomic accuracy, 3) add classification information to the tree, 4) improve the design of the website, 5) create a new file of a phylogenetic diagram from an old publication, and 6) bring your ideas! Users are encouraged to provide feedback to Teo and contribute to the project development.

Contact Teo Nakov: teofiln@gmail.com