Mapping Phylogenetic Trees to Reveal Distinct Patterns of Evolution

Mol Biol Evol. 2016 Oct;33(10):2735-43. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msw124. Epub 2016 Jun 24.


Evolutionary relationships are frequently described by phylogenetic trees, but a central barrier in many fields is the difficulty of interpreting data containing conflicting phylogenetic signals. We present a metric-based method for comparing trees which extracts distinct alternative evolutionary relationships embedded in data. We demonstrate detection and resolution of phylogenetic uncertainty in a recent study of anole lizards, leading to alternate hypotheses about their evolutionary relationships. We use our approach to compare trees derived from different genes of Ebolavirus and find that the VP30 gene has a distinct phylogenetic signature composed of three alternatives that differ in the deep branching structure.

Key words: phylogenetics, evolution, tree metrics, genetics, sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Statistics as Topic / methods