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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 30, 2011

A Variance-Components Model for Distance-Matrix Phylogenetic Reconstruction

  • Walter R Gilks , Tom M.W. Nye and Pietro Lio

Phylogenetic trees describe evolutionary relationships between related organisms (taxa). One approach to estimating phylogenetic trees supposes that a matrix of estimated evolutionary distances between taxa is available. Agglomerative methods have been proposed in which closely related taxon-pairs are successively combined to form ancestral taxa. Several of these computationally efficient agglomerative algorithms involve steps to reduce the variance in estimated distances. We propose an agglomerative phylogenetic method which focuses on statistical modeling of variance components in distance estimates. We consider how these variance components evolve during the agglomerative process. Our method simultaneously produces two topologically identical rooted trees, one tree having branch lengths proportional to elapsed time, and the other having branch lengths proportional to underlying evolutionary divergence. The method models two major sources of variation which have been separately discussed in the literature: noise, reflecting inaccuracies in measuring divergences, and distortion, reflecting randomness in the amounts of divergence in different parts of the tree. The methodology is based on successive hierarchical generalized least-squares regressions. It involves only means, variances and covariances of distance estimates, thereby avoiding full distributional assumptions. Exploitation of the algebraic structure of the estimation leads to an algorithm with computational complexity comparable to the leading published agglomerative methods. A parametric bootstrap procedure allows full uncertainty in the phylogenetic reconstruction to be assessed. Software implementing the methodology may be freely downloaded from StatTree.

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Published Online: 2011-3-30

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