Many cladistic analyses of animal phylogeny have been published by authors arguing that their results are well supported. Comparison of these analyses indicates that there can be as yet no general consensus about the evolution of the animal phyla. We show that the various cladistic studies published to date differ significantly in methods of character selection, character coding, scoring and weighting, ground-pattern reconstructions, and taxa selection. These methodological differences are seldom made explicit, which hinders comparison of different studies and makes it impossible to assess a particular phylogeny outside its own scope. The effects of these methodological differences must be considered before we can hope to reach a morphological reference framework needed for effective comparison and combination with the evidence obtained from molecular and developmental genetic studies.
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