Quartet-Mapping, a Generalization of the Likelihood-Mapping Procedure

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Likelihood-mapping (LM) was suggested as a method of displaying the phylogenetic content of an alignment. However, statistical properties of the method have not been studied. Here we analyze the special case of a four-species tree generated under a range of evolution models and compare the results with those of a natural extension of the likelihood-mapping approach, geometry-mapping (GM), which is based on the method of statistical geometry in sequence space. The methods are compared in their abilities to indicate the correct topology. The performance of both methods in detecting the star topology is especially explored. Our results show that LM tends to reject a star tree more often than GM. When assumptions about the evolutionary model of the maximum-likelihood reconstruction are not matched by the true process of evolution, then LM shows a tendency to favor one tree, whereas GM correctly detects the star tree except for very short outer branch lengths with a statistical significance of >0.95 for all models. LM, on the other hand, reconstructs the correct bifurcating tree with a probability of >0.95 for most branch length combinations even under models with varying substitution rates. The parameter domain for which GM recovers the true tree is much smaller. When the exterior branch lengths are larger than a (analytically derived) threshold value depending on the tree shape (rather than the evolutionary model), GM reconstructs a star tree rather than the true tree. We suggest a combined approach of LM and GM for the evaluation of starlike trees. This approach offers the possibility of testing for significant positive interior branch lengths without extensive statistical and computational efforts.

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