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J Math Biol. 2010 Jan;60(1):95-106. doi: 10.1007/s00285-009-0260-0. Epub 2009 Mar 13.

Maximum tree: a consistent estimator of the species tree.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


We propose a model based approach to use multiple gene trees to estimate the species tree. The coalescent process requires that gene divergences occur earlier than species divergences when there is any polymorphism in the ancestral species. Under this scenario, speciation times are restricted to be smaller than the corresponding gene split times. The maximum tree (MT) is the tree with the largest possible speciation times in the space of species trees restricted by available gene trees. If all populations have the same population size, the MT is the maximum likelihood estimate of the species tree. It can be shown the MT is a consistent estimator of the species tree even when the MT is built upon the estimates of the true gene trees if the gene tree estimates are statistically consistent. The MT converges in probability to the true species tree at an exponential rate.

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