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Reconstructing the Last Common Ancestor: Epistemological and Empirical Challenges

Estrada, Amadeo / AEN and Suárez-Díaz, Edna / ESD and Becerra, Arturo / AB (2022) Reconstructing the Last Common Ancestor: Epistemological and Empirical Challenges. [Preprint]


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Reconstructing the genetic traits of the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) and the Tree of Life (TOL) are two examples of the reaches of contemporary molecular phylogenetics. Nevertheless, the whole enterprise has led to paradoxical results. The presence of Lateral Gene Transfer poses epistemic and empirical challenges to meet these goals; the discussion around this subject has been enriched by arguments from philosophers and historians of science. At the same time, a few but influential research groups have aimed to reconstruct the LCA with rich-in-detail hypotheses and high-resolution gene catalogs and metabolic traits. We argue that LGT poses insurmountable challenges for detailed and rich in details reconstructions and propose, instead, a middle-ground position with the reconstruction of a slim LCA based on traits under strong pressures of Negative Natural Selection, and for the need of consilience with evidence from organismal biology and geochemistry. We defend
a cautionary perspective that goes beyond the statistical analysis of gene similarities and assumes the broader consequences of evolving empirical data and epistemic pluralism in the reconstruction of early life.

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Item Type: Preprint
Estrada, Amadeo /
Suárez-Díaz, Edna / ESDednasuarez@ciencias.unam.mx0000-0003-2259-3110
Becerra, Arturo / ABabb@ciencias.unam.mx0000-0002-7076-0342
Additional Information: Accepted on Acta Biotheoretica
Keywords: Last Common Ancestor (LCA), Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT), Lateral Gene Transfer (LGT), Tree of Life (TOL), Network of Life (NOL), Reconstruction of Ancestral States.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Depositing User: Biología Amadeo / A. Estrada
Date Deposited: 06 May 2022 15:53
Last Modified: 06 May 2022 15:53
Item ID: 20546
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Date: 25 April 2022

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