In taxonomy, a grouping is paraphyletic if it consists of the grouping's last common ancestor and most of its descendants, but excludes a few monophyletic subgroups. The grouping is said to be paraphyletic with respect to the excluded subgroups. In contrast, a monophyletic grouping (a clade) includes a common ancestor and all of its descendants. The terms are commonly used in phylogenetics (a subfield of biology) and in the tree model of historical linguistics. Paraphyletic groups are identified by a combination of synapomorphies and symplesiomorphies. If many subgroups are missing from the named group, it is said to be polyparaphyletic.
The term was coined by Willi Hennig to apply to well-known taxa like Reptilia (reptiles) which, as commonly named and traditionally defined, is paraphyletic with respect to mammals and birds. Reptilia contains the last common ancestor of reptiles and all descendants of that ancestor, including all extant reptiles as well as the extinct synapsids, except for mammals and birds. Other commonly recognized paraphyletic groups include fish, monkeys, and lizards.[page needed]
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