Honors Program


Date of this Version

Summer 7-15-2022

Document Type



Kozisek, Nicholas. 2022 July 15. Predicting Taxonomic Placement of Mutated Species through Phylogenetic Analysis. University of Nebraska - Lincoln.


Copyright 2022 Nick Kozisek


Mutations provide the means of genetic variation and ultimately speciation. They can occur at varying rates dependent on many biological and environmental factors. Tracing the extent of mutations and the degrees of divergence between genetic sequences enables the ability to define the relations of different organisms with each other and classify them into corresponding clades. Microbes and biological compounds found on Mars by landers could be a result of a seeding event from previous landings or earlier natural events. This study aims to prove the ability to classify a heavily mutated genetic sequence and accurately classify it among known contemporary sequences. A collection of genetic sequences from 16S and 18S rRNA were aligned and built into a phylogenetic tree in which to compare mutations of one of the sequences. The resulting trees reliably predicted the correct placement of the mutated sequences derived from their ancestral states at various rates of mutation from relatively recent branches. While the unable to accurately predict the origins of distant mutants, these phylogenetic analyses have proven capable of identifying potential contaminants by known species via human delivery.