On the number of binary characters needed to recover a phylogeny using maximum parsimony

Bull Math Biol. 2011 Jun;73(6):1398-411. doi: 10.1007/s11538-010-9579-3. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


We give an explicit construction to solve a conjecture of Mike Steel and David Penny that any phylogeny involving N taxa can be recovered unambiguously using on the order of log N binary characters and the method of maximum parsimony. Biologically, this means that homoplasy need not be a deterrent to parsimony methods. Some patterns of homoplasy are phylogenetically informative and can exponentially reduce the amount of data needed to resolve a phylogeny.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • DNA