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The study of evolutionary biology

In general, evolutionary biologist are interested in understanding how all the different creatures that are present today arose and how these creatures interact with each other and the environment to generate the ecosystems we see today. So evolutionary biology involves researchers in many fields, for example cladistics, paleontology, genomics, population genetics and ecology, and developmental biology. Cladistics is the discipline of reconstructing the relationships between organisms. That is, when did two discrete organisms last share a common ancestor? As the relationships between individual species and among related clades become better resolved based upon morphological and molecular similarities, complex familial relationships can be inferred and represented as a tree like network where the closest relatives represent adjacent tips on large branches. The network of all living things is called the tree of life. Paleontologists study the fossil record to trace back morphological features that can be used in cladistic studies. Genomics is the accumulation and annotation of the genetic codes for living organisms. Once an organism’s genome sequence is known, it can be compared with the sequences from other organisms to determine relatedness. Additionally genomic researchers can look for patterns in the genes that are present in one group of animals but not others and in the way the genes are arranged with respect to each other and other non-coding sequences to gain further insights into how genomes and thus animals evolve. Population genetics study the frequency of the different alleles for a gene in a population and the effects of population size, life strategies, and environmental effects on the frequency of these alleles over time. Comparative developmental biology tries to understand the molecular and cellular differences that have resulted in the disparate morphologies among organisms, i. e. why is a butterfly’s wing different than a fly’s wing.