Irrational exuberance for resolved species trees

Evolution; International Journal of Organic Evolution
Matthew W Hahn, Luay K Nakhleh


Phylogenomics has largely succeeded in its aim of accurately inferring species trees, even when there are high levels of discordance among individual gene trees. These resolved species trees can be used to ask many questions about trait evolution, including the direction of change and number of times traits have evolved. However, the mapping of traits onto trees generally uses only a single representation of the species tree, ignoring variation in the gene trees used to construct it. Recognizing that genes underlie traits, these results imply that many traits follow topologies that are discordant with the species topology. As a consequence, standard methods for character mapping will incorrectly infer the number of times a trait has evolved. This phenomenon, dubbed "hemiplasy," poses many problems in analyses of character evolution. Here we outline these problems, explaining where and when they are likely to occur. We offer several ways in which the possible presence of hemiplasy can be diagnosed, and discuss multiple approaches to dealing with the problems presented by underlying gene tree discordance when carrying out character mapping. Finally, we discuss the implications of hemiplasy for general phylogenetic inference, incl...Continue Reading


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