When two trees go to war

Leo van Iersel*, Steven Kelk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Rooted phylogenetic networks are used to model non-treelike evolutionary histories. Such networks are often constructed by combining trees, clusters, triplets or characters into a single network that in some well-defined sense simultaneously represents them all. We review these four models and investigate how they are related. Motivated by the parsimony principle, one often aims to construct a network that contains as few reticulations (non-treelike evolutionary events) as possible. In general, the model chosen influences the minimum number of reticulation events required. However, when one obtains the input data from two binary (i.e. fully resolved) trees, we show that the minimum number of reticulations is independent of the model. The number of reticulations necessary to represent the trees, triplets, clusters (in the softwired sense) and characters (with unrestricted multiple crossover recombination) are all equal. Furthermore, we show that these results also hold when not the number of reticulations but the level of the constructed network is minimised. We use these unification results to settle several computational complexity questions that have been open in the field for some time. We also give explicit examples to show that already for data obtained from three binary trees the models begin to diverge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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