Phylogenetics of artificial manuscripts.
Spencer M, Davidson EA, Barbrook AC, Howe CJ
Journal of Theoretical Biology (2004)
Category: bioinformatics ¤ Added: Aug 27, 2004 ¤ Rating: ◊◊
Biological evolution has parallels with the development of natural languages, man-made artifacts, and manuscript texts. As a result, phylogenetic methods developed for evolutionary biology are increasingly being used in linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, and textual criticism. Despite this popularity, there have been few critical tests of their suitability. Here, we apply phylogenetic methods to artificial manuscripts with a known true phylogeny, produced by modern 'scribes'. Although the survival of ancestral forms and multiple descendants from a single ancestor are probably much more common in manuscript evolution than biological evolution, we were able to reconstruct most of the true phylogeny. This is important because phylogenetic methods are influencing the production of critical editions of major written works. We also show that the variation in rates of change at different locations in the text follows a gamma distribution, as is often the case in DNA sequences.