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Accuracy of Estimated Phylogenies: Effects of Tree Topology and Evolutionary Model

F. James Rohlf, W. S. Chang, R. R. Sokal and Junhyong Kim
Evolution
Vol. 44, No. 6 (Sep., 1990), pp. 1671-1684
DOI: 10.2307/2409346
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2409346
Page Count: 14
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Accuracy of Estimated Phylogenies: Effects of Tree Topology and Evolutionary Model
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Abstract

A simulation study was carried out to investigate the relative importance of tree topology (both balance and stemminess), evolutionary rates (constant, varying among characters, and varying among lineages), and evolutionary models in determining the accuracy with which phylogenetic trees can be estimated. The three evolutionary context models were phyletic (characters can change at each simulated time step), speciational (changes are possible only at the time of speciation into two daughter lineages), and punctuational (changes occur at the time of speciation but only in one of the daughter lineages). UPGMA clustering and maximum parsimony ("Wagner trees") methods for estimating phylogenies were compared. All trees were based on eight recent OTUs. The three evolutionary context models were found to have the largest influence on accuracy of estimates by both methods. The next most important effect was that of the stemminess x context interaction. Maximum parsimony and UPGMA performed worst under the punctuational models. Under the phyletic model, trees with high stemminess values could be estimated more accurately and balanced trees were slightly easier to estimate than unbalanced ones. Overall, maximum parsimony yielded more accurate trees than UPGMA-but that was expected for these simulations since many more characters than OTUs were used. Our results suggest that the great majority of estimated phylogenetic trees are likely to be quite inaccurate; they underscore the inappropriateness of characterizing current phylogenetic methods as being for reconstruction rather than for estimation.

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