Monday, June 29, 2015

Wigwag, and the Family Tree


I have noted before that common usage of expressions like "family tree" often extend far beyond actual pedigrees. This particular expression is often used to describe any sort of historical relationship, not just genealogical ones. It is also sometimes used simply to describe any sort of personal inter-connection. All of these usages occurred in a short-lived magazine from 25 years ago called Wigwag.


Wigwag magazine formally debuted in October 1989 (after a test issue in 1988), and published its last issue in February 1991, for a total of 15 issues. It was a sort of cozy version of the New Yorker magazine. Similarly, it had a number of regular features, such as the Road Trip, the Map, and Letters From Home. The one that is of interest to us was called The Family Tree.

This feature mapped cultural relationships, having been described as "a field guide to the genealogy of influence in American life". It included human relationships, but it also included things like cars (the tree of which is reproduced in the book by Nobuhiro Minaka & Kunihiko Sugiyama. 2012. Phylogeny Mandala: Chain, Tree, and Network) and comic-book superheroes.

I have been unable to locate any decent copies, but four of the "trees" are included below.

As you can see, sometimes The Family Tree was actually a genealogical tree, but just as often it was simply a network of pairwise cultural connections. The latter, of course, usually formed a complex network that did not really map historical relationships.





This last Family Tree is from the original trial issue, and shows the inter-relationships of the writers and producers of American TV sitcoms.

You can read a bit more about the magazine, and its history, here:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trees, networks and dogs


One of the perennially most popular posts in this blog has been the one about the domestication of dogs: Why do we still use trees for the dog genealogy?

In that post I noted that, up to 2012, there were three distinct trends in the presentation of the genealogy of dog breeds:
  1. the study of whole-genome data, in which the results are presented solely as a neighbor-joining tree
  2. the study of mtDNA sequence data, in which the results are presented both as a tree and as a haplotype network
  3. the study of combined Y-chromosome and mtDNA sequence data, in which the results are presented solely as a haplotype network.
This pattern has continued. For example, the following diagram is taken from:
Skoglund P, Ersmark E, Palkopoulou E, Dalén L (2015) Ancient wolf genome reveals an early divergence of domestic dog ancestors and admixture into high-latitude breeds. Current Biology 25:1515-1519.

The tree is based on mitochondrial genome data for the highlighted fossil, compared to the mitochondrial sequences of modern-day dogs and wolves, as well as ancient canids. The use of a phylogenetic tree seems to be based on the idea that mitochondria consist of tightly linked genes that are uniparentally inherited. However, neither of these characteristics is universal, and so a network might be more appropriate.

The dog genealogy is recognized as being characterized by introgression with wolves, as the authors themselves note. Also, the origin of dogs is not directly from wolf ancestors, but both modern wolves and modern dogs are derived from a common ancestor. For example, this next diagram is from:
Freedman AH, et alia (2014) Genome sequencing highlights the dynamic early history of dogs. PLoS Genetics 10:e1004016.

The width of each population branch is proportional to inferred population size. Note that wolves and dogs originated at roughly the same time, as the result of bottlenecks in the ancestral population size. Wolves diversified slightly earlier than dogs. Also, Skoglund et al. dispute the dating of the splits, suggesting that the dog-wolf divergence was "at least 27,000 years ago".

As a final note, there is a tendency to credit Charles Darwin with originating just about everything in the study of genealogy, although he was a synthesizer as much as an innovator. For example, David Grimm suggests (Dawn of the dog. Science 348: 274-279):
Charles Darwin fired the first shot in the dog wars. Writing in 1868 in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, he wondered whether dogs had evolved from a single species or from an unusual mating, perhaps between a wolf and a jackal.
However, the first hypothesized genealogy was actually published more than a century earlier, by Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon (see the blog post on The first phylogenetic network), who suggested a common origin with wolves.