On statistical tests of phylogenetic tree imbalance: the Sackin and other indices revisited

Math Biosci. 2005 Jun;195(2):141-53. doi: 10.1016/j.mbs.2005.03.003.


We investigate the distribution of statistical measures of tree imbalance in large phylogenies. More specifically, we study normalized versions of the Sackin's index and the number of subtrees of given sizes. Using the connection with structures from theoretical computer science, we provide precise description for the limiting distribution under the null hypothesis of Yule trees. Corrected p-values are then computed, and the statistical power of these statistics for testing the Yule model against a model of biased speciation is evaluated from simulations. As an illustration, the tests are applied to the HIV-1 reconstructed phylogeny.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / virology
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phylogeny*


  • DNA, Viral