Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 354–361 | Cite as

Statistical properties of molecular tree construction methods under the neutral mutation model

  • Yoshio Tateno
  • Fumio Tajima


The statistical properties of three molecular tree construction methods—the unweighted pair-group arithmetic average clustering (UPG), Farris, and modified Farris methods—are examined under the neutral mutation model of evolution. The methods are compared for accuracy in construction of the topology and estimation of the branch lengths, using statistics of these two aspects. The distribution of the statistic concerning topological construction is shown to be as important as its mean and variance for the comparison.

Of the three methods, the UPG method constructs the tree topology with the least variation. The modified Farris method, however, gives the best performance when the two aspects are considered simultaneously. It is also shown that a topology based on two genes is much more accurate than that based on one gene.

There is a tendency to accept published molecular trees, but uncritical acceptance may lead one to spurious conclusions. It should always be kept in mind that a tree is a statistical result that is affected strongly by the stochastic error of nucleotide substitution and the error intrinsic to the tree construction method itself.

Key words

Molecular evolution Molecular tree Computer simulation Unweighted pair-group arithmetic average clustering method Farris method Modified Farris method 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yoshio Tateno
    • 1
  • Fumio Tajima
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN)Wako, SaitamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of BiologyKyushu UniversityHakozaki, FukuokaJapan

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