Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 80, Issue 4, pp 864–879 | Cite as

On the Accuracy of Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction for Ultrametric Trees with Parsimony

  • Lina Herbst
  • Mareike Fischer
Original Article


We examine a mathematical question concerning the reconstruction accuracy of the Fitch algorithm for reconstructing the ancestral sequence of the most recent common ancestor given a phylogenetic tree and sequence data for all taxa under consideration. In particular, for the symmetric four-state substitution model which is also known as Jukes–Cantor model, we answer affirmatively a conjecture of Li, Steel and Zhang which states that for any ultrametric phylogenetic tree and a symmetric model, the Fitch parsimony method using all terminal taxa is more accurate, or at least as accurate, for ancestral state reconstruction than using any particular terminal taxon or any particular pair of taxa. This conjecture had so far only been answered for two-state data by Fischer and Thatte. Here, we focus on answering the biologically more relevant case with four states, which corresponds to ancestral sequence reconstruction from DNA or RNA data.


Maximum parsimony Ancestral sequence reconstruction Reconstruction accuracy Symmetric four-state model 


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Mathematics and Computer ScienceGreifswald UniversityGreifswaldGermany

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