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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Apr 3;104(14):5936-41. Epub 2007 Mar 28.

High-resolution species trees without concatenation.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The vast majority of phylogenetic models focus on resolution of gene trees, despite the fact that phylogenies of species in which gene trees are embedded are of primary interest. We analyze a Bayesian model for estimating species trees that accounts for the stochastic variation expected for gene trees from multiple unlinked loci sampled from a single species history after a coalescent process. Application of the model to a 106-gene data set from yeast shows that the set of gene trees recovered by statistically acknowledging the shared but unknown species tree from which gene trees are sampled is much reduced compared with treating the history of each locus independently of an overarching species tree. The analysis also yields a concentrated posterior distribution of the yeast species tree whose mode is congruent with the concatenated gene tree but can do so with less than half the loci required by the concatenation method. Using simulations, we show that, with large numbers of loci, highly resolved species trees can be estimated under conditions in which concatenation of sequence data will positively mislead phylogeny, and when the proportion of gene trees matching the species tree is <10%. However, when gene tree/species tree congruence is high, species trees can be resolved with just two or three loci. These results make accessible an alternative paradigm for combining data in phylogenomics that focuses attention on the singularity of species histories and away from the idiosyncrasies and multiplicities of individual gene histories.

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