Friday, August 11, 2017

Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny, or What Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg

In Nature there is an article where they are applying the AI worlds approaches to plant systematics. Namely the process of sorting and arranging plants. They note:

There are roughly 3,000 herbaria in the world, hosting an estimated 350 million specimens — only a fraction of which has been digitized. But the swelling data sets, along with advances in computing techniques, enticed computer scientist ... and botanist ..., to see what they could make of the data. ... team had already made progress automating plant identification through the Pl@ntNet project. It has accumulated millions of images of fresh plants — typically taken in the field by people using its smartphone app to identify specimens. Researchers trained similar algorithms on more than 260,000 scans of herbarium sheets, encompassing more than 1,000 species. The computer program eventually identified species with nearly 80% accuracy: the correct answer was within the algorithms’ top 5 picks 90% of the time. That, says Wilf, probably out-performs a human taxonomist by quite a bit.

Now having done this a few decades ago,  and still proceeding to do so with Hemerocallis, the answer is not form but simple genetics. Sequence the genes, then using a mutation hypotheses base determine how the genes evolved. The use the shapes to see the effect. As is well know this process has been around since Linnaeus and it suffers from substantial defects. Just because a form looks close to something says nothing about the genetic evolution.