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Mol Biol Evol. 2014 Dec;31(12):3125-35. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu279. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

Unguided species delimitation using DNA sequence data from multiple Loci.

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Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China Department of Evolution & Ecology, University of California, Davis


A method was developed for simultaneous Bayesian inference of species delimitation and species phylogeny using the multispecies coalescent model. The method eliminates the need for a user-specified guide tree in species delimitation and incorporates phylogenetic uncertainty in a Bayesian framework. The nearest-neighbor interchange algorithm was adapted to propose changes to the species tree, with the gene trees for multiple loci altered in the proposal to avoid conflicts with the newly proposed species tree. We also modify our previous scheme for specifying priors for species delimitation models to construct joint priors for models of species delimitation and species phylogeny. As in our earlier method, the modified algorithm integrates over gene trees, taking account of the uncertainty of gene tree topology and branch lengths given the sequence data. We conducted a simulation study to examine the statistical properties of the method using six populations (two sequences each) and a true number of three species, with values of divergence times and ancestral population sizes that are realistic for recently diverged species. The results suggest that the method tends to be conservative with high posterior probabilities being a confident indicator of species status. Simulation results also indicate that the power of the method to delimit species increases with an increase of the divergence times in the species tree, and with an increased number of gene loci. Reanalyses of two data sets of cavefish and coast horned lizards suggest considerable phylogenetic uncertainty even though the data are informative about species delimitation. We discuss the impact of the prior on models of species delimitation and species phylogeny and of the prior on population size parameters (θ) on Bayesian species delimitation.


Bayesian species delimitation; guide tree; multispecies coalescent; nearest-neighbor interchange; reversible-jump MCMC; species tree

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