License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY 3.0)
When quoting this document, please refer to the following
DOI: 10.4230/LIPIcs.WABI.2020.15
URN: urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-128048
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Yu, Xilin ; Le, Thien ; Christensen, Sarah ; Molloy, Erin K. ; Warnow, Tandy

Advancing Divide-And-Conquer Phylogeny Estimation Using Robinson-Foulds Supertrees

LIPIcs-WABI-2020-15.pdf (0.7 MB)


One of the Grand Challenges in Science is the construction of the Tree of Life, an evolutionary tree containing several million species, spanning all life on earth. However, the construction of the Tree of Life is enormously computationally challenging, as all the current most accurate methods are either heuristics for NP-hard optimization problems or Bayesian MCMC methods that sample from tree space. One of the most promising approaches for improving scalability and accuracy for phylogeny estimation uses divide-and-conquer: a set of species is divided into overlapping subsets, trees are constructed on the subsets, and then merged together using a "supertree method". Here, we present Exact-RFS-2, the first polynomial-time algorithm to find an optimal supertree of two trees, using the Robinson-Foulds Supertree (RFS) criterion (a major approach in supertree estimation that is related to maximum likelihood supertrees), and we prove that finding the RFS of three input trees is NP-hard. We also present GreedyRFS (a greedy heuristic that operates by repeatedly using Exact-RFS-2 on pairs of trees, until all the trees are merged into a single supertree). We evaluate Exact-RFS-2 and GreedyRFS, and show that they have better accuracy than the current leading heuristic for RFS.

BibTeX - Entry

  author =	{Xilin Yu and Thien Le and Sarah Christensen and Erin K. Molloy and Tandy Warnow},
  title =	{{Advancing Divide-And-Conquer Phylogeny Estimation Using Robinson-Foulds Supertrees}},
  booktitle =	{20th International Workshop on Algorithms in Bioinformatics (WABI 2020)},
  pages =	{15:1--15:17},
  series =	{Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs)},
  ISBN =	{978-3-95977-161-0},
  ISSN =	{1868-8969},
  year =	{2020},
  volume =	{172},
  editor =	{Carl Kingsford and Nadia Pisanti},
  publisher =	{Schloss Dagstuhl--Leibniz-Zentrum f{\"u}r Informatik},
  address =	{Dagstuhl, Germany},
  URL =		{},
  URN =		{urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-128048},
  doi =		{10.4230/LIPIcs.WABI.2020.15},
  annote =	{Keywords: supertrees, divide-and-conquer, phylogeny estimation}

Keywords: supertrees, divide-and-conquer, phylogeny estimation
Collection: 20th International Workshop on Algorithms in Bioinformatics (WABI 2020)
Issue Date: 2020
Date of publication: 25.08.2020
Supplementary Material: Exact-RFS-2 and GreedyRFS are available in open source form on Github at

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