On the information content of discrete phylogenetic characters
Phylogenetic inference aims to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of different species based on genetic (or other) data. Discrete characters are a particular type of data, which contain information on how the species should be grouped together. However, it has long been known that some characters contain more information than others. For instance, a character that assigns the same state to each species groups all of them together and so provides no insight into the relationships of the species considered. At the other extreme, a character that assigns a different state to each species also conveys no phylogenetic signal. In this manuscript, we study a natural combinatorial measure of the information content of an individual character and analyse properties of characters that provide the maximum phylogenetic information, particularly, the number of states such a character uses and how the different states have to be distributed among the species or taxa of the phylogenetic tree.
KeywordsPhylogeny Character Information content Convexity
Mathematics Subject Classification05C05 (Trees) 05C30 (Enumeration in graph theory) 92D15 (Problems related to evolution)
We thank the two anonymous reviewers for several helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. I.D. and E.K. thank the International Office at the University of Greifswald and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for the support through the mobility program PROMOS (travel scholarship). We also thank the (former) Allan Wilson Centre for supporting this research.
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