Axiomatic opportunities and obstacles for inferring a species tree from gene trees

Mike Steel, Joel D. Velasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The reconstruction of a central tendency "species tree" from a large number of conflicting gene trees is a central problem in systematic biology. Moreover, it becomes particularly problematic when taxon coverage is patchy, so that not all taxa are present in every gene tree. Here, we list four apparently desirable properties that a method for estimating a species tree from gene trees could have (the strongest property states that building a species tree from input gene trees and then pruning leaves gives a tree that is the same as, or more resolved than, the tree obtained by first removing the taxa from the input trees and then building the species tree).We show that although it is technically possible to simultaneously satisfy these properties when taxon coverage is complete, they cannot all be satisfied in the more general supertree setting. In part two, we discuss a concordance-based consensus method based on Baum's "plurality clusters", and an extension to concordance supertrees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)772-778
Number of pages7
JournalSystematic biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Concordance
  • Consensus tree
  • Phylogenetics
  • Plurality cluster
  • Supertree


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