Causes, consequences and solutions of phylogenetic incongruence

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Abstract

Phylogenetic analysis is used to recover the evolutionary history of species, genes or proteins. Understanding phylogenetic relationships between organisms is a prerequisite of almost any evolutionary study, as contemporary species all share a common history through their ancestry. Moreover, it is important because of its wide applications that include understanding genome organization, epidemiological investigations, predicting protein functions, and deciding the genes to be analyzed in comparative studies. Despite immense progress in recent years, phylogenetic reconstruction involves many challenges that create uncertainty with respect to the true evolutionary relationships of the species or genes analyzed. One of the most notable difficulties is the widespread occurrence of incongruence among methods and also among individual genes or different genomic regions. Presence of widespread incongruence inhibits successful revealing of evolutionary relationships and applications of phylogenetic analysis. In this article, I concisely review the effect of various factors that cause incongruence in molecular phylogenies, the advances in the field that resolved some factors, and explore unresolved factors that cause incongruence along with possible ways for tackling them.

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