Drawing explicit phylogenetic networks and their integration into SplitsTree

BMC Evol Biol. 2008 Jan 24;8:22. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-8-22.


Background: SplitsTree provides a framework for the calculation of phylogenetic trees and networks. It contains a wide variety of methods for the import/export, calculation and visualization of phylogenetic information. The software is developed in Java and implements a command line tool as well as a graphical user interface.

Results: In this article, we present solutions to two important problems in the field of phylogenetic networks. The first problem is the visualization of explicit phylogenetic networks. To solve this, we present a modified version of the equal angle algorithm that naturally integrates reticulations into the layout process and thus leads to an appealing visualization of these networks. The second problem is the availability of explicit phylogenetic network methods for the general user. To advance the usage of explicit phylogenetic networks by biologists further, we present an extension to the SplitsTree framework that integrates these networks. By addressing these two problems, SplitsTree is among the first programs that incorporates implicit and explicit network methods together with standard phylogenetic tree methods in a graphical user interface environment.

Conclusion: In this article, we presented an extension of SplitsTree 4 that incorporates explicit phylogenetic networks. The extension provides a set of core classes to handle explicit phylogenetic networks and a visualization of these networks.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computer Graphics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Software
  • User-Computer Interface