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Genetics. 2000 Oct;156(2):879-91.

Consequences of recombination on traditional phylogenetic analysis.

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Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Aarhus C., Denmark.


We investigate the shape of a phylogenetic tree reconstructed from sequences evolving under the coalescent with recombination. The motivation is that evolutionary inferences are often made from phylogenetic trees reconstructed from population data even though recombination may well occur (mtDNA or viral sequences) or does occur (nuclear sequences). We investigate the size and direction of biases when a single tree is reconstructed ignoring recombination. Standard software (PHYLIP) was used to construct the best phylogenetic tree from sequences simulated under the coalescent with recombination. With recombination present, the length of terminal branches and the total branch length are larger, and the time to the most recent common ancestor smaller, than for a tree reconstructed from sequences evolving with no recombination. The effects are pronounced even for small levels of recombination that may not be immediately detectable in a data set. The phylogenies when recombination is present superficially resemble phylogenies for sequences from an exponentially growing population. However, exponential growth has a different effect on statistics such as Tajima's D. Furthermore, ignoring recombination leads to a large overestimation of the substitution rate heterogeneity and the loss of the molecular clock. These results are discussed in relation to viral and mtDNA data sets.

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