A "Árvore da Vida" de Darwin já era...

segunda-feira, dezembro 22, 2008

Você se lembra daquela árvore da vida monofilética de Darwin que foi usada para ilustrar a hipótese da ancestralidade comum? Pois é, já era. Faz é tempo, mas a Nomenklatura científica e a Grande Mídia internacional e tupiniquim vivem um “affair” incestuoso quando a questão é Darwin: “O que Darwin tem de bom, a gente mostra. O que Darwin tem de ruim, a gente esconde”. Tutti cosa nostra, capice?

Há uma década este “simples professorzinho do ensino médio” (eu me orgulho de ter sido educador) levantou a lebre para alguns autores de livros didáticos de Biologia do ensino médio e para vários editores de ciência da Grande Mídia, que uma iminente e eminente mudança paradigmática em biologia evolutiva estava acontecendo. Nem deram importância para as críticas fundamentadas na literatura especializada. A galera dos meninos e meninas de Darwin riu e escarneceu deste que, para desespero deles, é hoje um historiador de ciência em formação.

Quando eu afirmei que a Árvore da Vida de Darwin estava com os dias contados, nem me levaram a sério. Apresentei a proposta da National Science Foundation dos Estados Unidos para a montagem de uma nova Árvore da Vida.

Eu somente destaco aqui que o prazo para entrega das propostas acaba em 23 de março de 2009.

Fui, nem sei por que, pensando que já li em algum lugar a respeito de uma certa árvore da vida. Cruz, credo! Valha-nos, Darwin!

Assembling the Tree of Life (ATOL)



Darwin's vision of the "great Tree of Life ... with its everbranching and beautiful ramifications" has challenged scientists and others for generations. Darwin's use of tree imagery inspired efforts to classify all the major groups of organisms, and to reveal the pattern of historical relationships that would explain the similarities and differences among them. Phylogenetic knowledge, by virtue of its explanatory power, has proven useful in many fields, such as choosing experimental systems for biological research, tracking the origin and spread of emerging diseases and their vectors, bioprospecting for pharmaceutical and agrochemical products, preserving germplasm, targeting biological control of invasive species, and evaluating risk factors for species conservation and ecosystem restoration. At the same time, progress in many disciplines from genomics to evolution and development is currently hampered by the lack of a rigorous phylogenetic framework to guide research.

Currently, the large-scale features of life's genealogy have been captured in the three-domain model of Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryota, but relationships of many groups of organisms remain unanalyzed and unresolved. Patterns of phylogeny within the domains and within most phyla, the extent of web-like reticulate connections among lineages, and the tempo and mode of evolutionary change remain unknown for most species on earth. Despite the enormity of the task, with 1.7 million described species and the likelihood of vastly more yet to be discovered, now is the time to reconstruct the tree of life: the conceptual, computational and technological tools are available to resolve most, if not all major branches of the tree of life. Researchers in biological and computational fields have recognized both the need and the potential for success and have called for a national and international effort to Assemble the Tree of Life. There are currently five general goals:

1. To scale up the numbers of taxa and data sets beyond current practice with an emphasis on acquisition and integration of molecular, morphological, and physiological evidence on extant and extinct organisms in order to resolve phylogenetic relationships of large taxonomic group;

2. A strong focus at this point is on major taxonomic groups not yet addressed by current or previous AToL projects, for example, major groups of prokaryotes, protists, lower invertebrates and viruses. This includes support of research to understand the role and importance of lateral gene transfer and reticulation in evolutionary history, as well as the development of methods and theory that will address this important issue in phylogenetic research and phyloinformatics;

3. Research on and development of tools for computational phylogenetics and phyloinformatics. These projects might include the archiving and managing of phylogenetic data, matrices, trees and networks; collaborative work environments for large scale systematics; software development to improve construction, visualization and navigation of the Tree of Life; assessment of empirical support and uncertainty in trees and networks; and exploration of the predictive capabilities of hierarchical structure in the Tree of Life; and

4. Coordination across different AToL projects, including data sharing and collaborations, identification of ‘core’ genes conserved across major groups that can be used in analyses across all major lineages of the ToL, identification of mechanisms that ensure a coordinated approach to data collection across various AToL projects;

5. Outreach and education in comparative phylogenetic biology and paleontology, emphasizing new training activities, informal science education, and Internet resources and dissemination.

Examples of awards that met these goals can be accessed here.