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Evolution by Computer

Insects are by far the largest class of the animal kingdom. In fact, they make up more than half of all existing animal species. So how have they evolved?

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Bioinformatics researchers at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies hope to gather as much genetic information as possible to create a family tree for insects. The only way to effectively manage this mass of data, however, is to use a supercomputer. The scientists test how plausible their results are by comparing them with existing fossil finds. The aim is to better understand insect species - which are both ecologically and economically important. The bioinformatics experts would also like to apply their programs to other living things. For example determining a virus’s family tree could be of enormous help in tracking the way it spreads.

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