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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Nov;33(2):440-51.

Should we be worried about long-branch attraction in real data sets? Investigations using metazoan 18S rDNA.

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  • 1Department of Zoology and Center for Systematic Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA.

Abstract

Although long-branch attraction (LBA) is frequently cited as the cause of anomalous phylogenetic groupings, few examples of LBA involving real sequence data are known. We have found several cases of probable LBA by analyzing subsamples from an alignment of 18S rDNA sequences for 133 metazoans. In one example, maximum parsimony analysis of sequences from two rotifers, a ctenophore, and a polychaete annelid resulted in strong support for a tree grouping two "long-branch taxa" (a rotifer and the ctenophore). Maximum-likelihood analysis of the same sequences yielded strong support for a more biologically reasonable "rotifer monophyly" tree. Attempts to break up long branches for problematic subsamples through increased taxon sampling reduced, but did not eliminate, LBA problems. Exhaustive analyses of all quartets for a subset of 50 sequences were performed in order to compare the performance of maximum likelihood, equal-weights parsimony, and two additional variants of parsimony; these methods do differ substantially in their rates of failure to recover trees consistent with well established, but highly unresolved phylogenies. Power analyses using simulations suggest that some incorrect inferences by maximum parsimony are due to statistical inconsistency and that when estimates of central branch lengths for certain quartets are very low, maximum-likelihood analyses have difficulty recovering accepted phylogenies even with large amounts of data. These examples demonstrate that LBA problems can occur in real data sets, and they provide an opportunity to investigate causes of incorrect inferences.

PMID:
15336677
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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