FlatNJ: A Novel Network-Based Approach to Visualize Evolutionary and Biogeographical Relationships

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Split networks are a type of phylogenetic network that allow visualization of conflict in evolutionary data. We present a new method for constructing such networks called FlatNetJoining (FlatNJ). A key feature of FlatNJ is that it produces networks that can be drawn in the plane in which labels may appear inside of the network. For complex data sets that involve, for example, non-neutral molecular markers, this can allow additional detail to be visualized as compared to previous methods such as split decomposition and NeighborNet. We illustrate the application of FlatNJ by applying it to whole HIV genome sequences, where recombination has taken place, fluorescent proteins in corals, where ancestral sequences are present, and mitochondrial DNA sequences from gall wasps, where biogeographical relationships are of interest. We find that the networks generated by FlatNJ can facilitate the study of genetic variation in the underlying molecular sequence data and, in particular, may help to investigate processes such as intra-locus recombination. FlatNJ has been implemented in Java and is freely available at www.uea.ac.uk/computing/software/flatnj. [flat split system; NeighborNet; Phylogenetic network; QNet; split; split network.]

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