Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction with Maximum Parsimony
One of the main aims in phylogenetics is the estimation of ancestral sequences based on present-day data like, for instance, DNA alignments. One way to estimate the data of the last common ancestor of a given set of species is to first reconstruct a phylogenetic tree with some tree inference method and then to use some method of ancestral state inference based on that tree. One of the best-known methods both for tree inference and for ancestral sequence inference is Maximum Parsimony (MP). In this manuscript, we focus on this method and on ancestral state inference for fully bifurcating trees. In particular, we investigate a conjecture published by Charleston and Steel in 1995 concerning the number of species which need to have a particular state, say a, at a particular site in order for MP to unambiguously return a as an estimate for the state of the last common ancestor. We prove the conjecture for all even numbers of character states, which is the most relevant case in biology. We also show that the conjecture does not hold in general for odd numbers of character states, but also present some positive results for this case.
KeywordsMaximum Parsimony Fitch algorithm Ancestral sequence reconstruction
We thank Mike Steel for bringing this topic to our attention. Moreover, we thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The first author also thanks the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University Greifswald for the Landesgraduiertenförderung studentship, under which this work was conducted.
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