Bayesian Inference of Reticulate Phylogenies under the Multispecies Network Coalescent

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The multispecies coalescent (MSC) is a statistical framework that models how gene genealogies grow within the branches of a species tree. The field of computational phylogenetics has witnessed an explosion in the development of methods for species tree inference under MSC, owing mainly to the accumulating evidence of incomplete lineage sorting in phylogenomic analyses. However, the evolutionary history of a set of genomes, or species, could be reticulate due to the occurrence of evolutionary processes such as hybridization or horizontal gene transfer. We report on a novel method for Bayesian inference of genome and species phylogenies under the multispecies network coalescent (MSNC). This framework models gene evolution within the branches of a phylogenetic network, thus incorporating reticulate evolutionary processes, such as hybridization, in addition to incomplete lineage sorting. As phylogenetic networks with different numbers of reticulation events correspond to points of different dimensions in the space of models, we devise a reversible-jump Markov chain Monte Carlo (RJMCMC) technique for sampling the posterior distribution of phylogenetic networks under MSNC. We implemented the methods in the publicly available, open-source software package PhyloNet and studied their performance on simulated and biological data. The work extends the reach of Bayesian inference to phylogenetic networks and enables new evolutionary analyses that account for reticulation.




Wen, D., Yu, Y., & Nakhleh, L. (2016). Bayesian Inference of Reticulate Phylogenies under the Multispecies Network Coalescent. PLoS Genetics, 12(5).

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