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Maximum Likelihood and Minimum-Steps Methods for Estimating Evolutionary Trees from Data on Discrete Characters

Joseph Felsenstein
Systematic Zoology
Vol. 22, No. 3 (Sep., 1973), pp. 240-249
DOI: 10.2307/2412304
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2412304
Page Count: 10
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Maximum Likelihood and Minimum-Steps Methods for Estimating Evolutionary Trees from Data on Discrete Characters
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Abstract

The general maximum likelihood approach to the statistical estimation of phylogenies is outlined, for data in which there are a number of discrete states for each character. The details of the maximum likelihood method will depend on the details of the probabilistic model of evolution assumed. There are a very large number of possible models of evolution. For a few of the simpler models, the calculation of the likelihood of an evolutionary tree is outlined. For these models, the maximum likelihood tree will be the same as the "most parsimonious" (or minimum-steps) tree if the probability of change during the evolution of the group is assumed a priori to be very small. However, most sets of data require too many assumed state changes per character to be compatible with this assumption. Farris (1973) has argued that maximum likelihood and parsimony methods are identical under a much less restrictive set of assumptions. It is argued that the present methods are preferable to his, and a counterexample to his argument is presented. An algorithm which enables rapid calculation of the likelihood of a phylogeny is described.

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