Explain the difference between monophyletic and paraphyletic clade.

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Monophyletic taxon is a taxonomic group of organisms, which consists of most recent common ancestor of the group as well as all the organisms that are the descendants of this recent common ancestor. 

Examples of monophyletic groups are: class Mammalia (comprising all mammals), Angiosperms (Plants bearing flowers and seeds), class Aves (comprising birds, though not the primitive ones), etc.

Paraphyletic taxon is closely similar to a monophyletic taxon in that it consists of a recent common ancestor and its descendants, but there is only one difference that ALL the descendants of the most recent common ancestor are NOT included. Examples are class Pisces (Fishes), Gymnosperms (Plants with unprotected seeds), etc.