Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Questioning the Tree of Life

I'm going to Halifax NS (Canada) next week to attend a very exciting conference with a catchy title: Questioning the Tree of life. This is legitimate scientific debate about the tree of life metaphor and its validity in light of massive horizontal gene transfers (HGT, also known as lateral gene transfers - LGT) during the early evolution of single cell organisms. It brings together scientists and philosophers who share an interest in this problem. Should be a blast!

I'm supposed to report the meeting on my blog but I don't know where I'll find the time. Here are the main speakers.
W. Ford Doolittle
Tree of Life, Tree of Cells, LUCA and other questionable entities

Jan Sapp
Thinking laterally on the tree of life: An historical overview

Olivier Rieppel
The series, the network, and the tree: Changing metaphors of order in nature

Gordon McOuat
The origins and politics of trees and non-hierarchical taxonomic systems

Rob Beiko
The impact of different LGT scenarios on simulated genome evolution

Laura Franklin-Hall
Scientific models and the history of life: Deep disagreement or mere misunderstanding?

Peter Gogarten
The indistinguishability of patterns created through gene transfer between preferred partners and patterns created through shared ancestry

Joel Velasco
Inferring phylogenetic networks

Sina Adl
Specimen choice and the implications of modern technology in tree construction

Jeffrey Lawrence
Fragmented speciation in bacteria: The failure of a coalescent model

Greg Morgan
Defining biodiversity in a world with horizontal gene transfer

Yan Boucher
Evolutionary units: Breaking down species concepts

Dick Burian
Conceptual revisions deriving from the loss of the Tree

Maureen O’Malley
Philosophy of biology, Ernst Mayr, and the Tree of Life

Eric Bapteste
Lateral thinking about trees

Lisa Gannett
Trees, trellises, and the Garden of Eden

Andrew Hamilton
TOL issues in macrobes as they relate to taxonomic practice

James Mallet
Was Darwin wrong about the nature of species and speciation?

James McInerney
LUCA and LECA: Gene genesis in the genome of Eden

Chris. Malaterre
On the roots of the tree of life

Bill Martin
Endosymbiosis and gene transfers from endosymbionts, the most glaring insult to the tree

John Archibald
Genic and genomic threads in the tapestry of photosynthetic life: Implications for ‘tree thinking’

Fréd. Bouchard
Endosymbiosis in light of reflections on symbiosis and the superorganism

Rob Wilson
On arguments over the tree of life

Andrew Roger
Deconstructing deconstructions of the Tree of Life: Why a tree of microbes might be realizable, meaningful and useful

John Dupré
Analysing analyses of Tree of Life arguments: A commentary on Wilson and Roger

Susan Spath
Cultural politics and the Tree of Life


  1. Bayesian Bouffant, FCDTuesday, July 21, 2009 8:52:00 AM

    I can already envision the Creationist summaries of the conference, trumpeting the collapse of "Darwinism."

  2. I will be attending at least a few of the talks over the couple of days that the conference is going on. Of course many of the speakers are from the research group I am a PhD student in but there are a lot of really great people going to be here giving some excellent talks.

  3. Mazur, I'm sure, is already prepping a lengthy series of articles on this...