Is there a term which can quantify how 'spread out' a particular character is on a tree? I want to distinguish between a character which is only restricted to a particular clade vs. a character that occurs all over the tree.

ETA: by 'all over' I meant it may be restricted to a few branches but those branches are spread out over the tree. It need not be ubiquitous. e.g. the character marked in blue on compared with the case where these three branches are in a small clade.


  • $\begingroup$ Probably off topic here, but 'ubiquitous' or 'widespread' should work. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Dec 17, 2012 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ I think that in the general language of trees, 'clustering' might be the word... $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    Jan 24, 2013 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


I agree with Terdon's terminology in the comment ("ubiquitous" or "widespread").

You can use clade-specific or species-specific for a restricted character.

For the characters that appear in all species of a branch and in a quantitative way you can also provide the estimated age of the last common ancestor to the branch featuring that character. This tool might help you: http://www.timetree.org/

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't a character restricted to a clade synapomorphic for that clade? (at least within the groups being considered.) $\endgroup$
    – Circeus
    Dec 25, 2012 at 1:35

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