In the previous course in the Specialization, we learned how to compare genes, proteins, and genomes. One way we can use these methods is in order to construct a "Tree of Life" showing how a large collection of related organisms have evolved over time.
In the first half of the course, we will discuss approaches for evolutionary tree construction that have been the subject of some of the most cited scientific papers of all time, and show how they can resolve quandaries from finding the origin of a deadly virus to locating the birthplace of modern humans.
In the second half of the course, we will shift gears and examine the old claim that birds evolved from dinosaurs. How can we prove this? In particular, we will examine a result that claimed that peptides harvested from a T. rex fossil closely matched peptides found in chickens. In particular, we will use methods from computational proteomics to ask how we could assess whether this result is valid or due to some form of contamination.
Finally, you will learn how to apply popular bioinformatics software tools to reconstruct an evolutionary tree of ebolaviruses and identify the source of the recent Ebola epidemic that caused global headlines.

From the lesson

Week 2: More Algorithms for Constructing Trees from Distance Matrices

<p>Welcome to Week 2 of class!</p>
<p>Last week, we started to see how evolutionary trees can be constructed from distance matrices. This week, we will encounter additional algorithms for this purpose, including the neighbor-joining algorithm, which has become one of the top-ten most cited papers in all of science since its introduction three decades ago.</p>