Folding and unfolding phylogenetic trees and networks

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Phylogenetic networks are rooted, labelled directed acyclic graphs which are commonly used to represent reticulate evolution. There is a close relationship between phylogenetic networks and multi-labelled trees (MUL-trees). Indeed, any phylogenetic network $N$ can be "unfolded" to obtain a MUL-tree $U(N)$ and, conversely, a MUL-tree $T$ can in certain circumstances be "folded" to obtain a phylogenetic network $F(T)$ that exhibits $T$. In this paper, we study properties of the operations $U$ and $F$ in more detail. In particular, we introduce the class of stable networks, phylogenetic networks $N$ for which $F(U(N))$ is isomorphic to $N$, characterise such networks, and show that they are related to the well-known class of tree-sibling networks.We also explore how the concept of displaying a tree in a network $N$ can be related to displaying the tree in the MUL-tree $U(N)$. To do this, we develop a phylogenetic analogue of graph fibrations. This allows us to view $U(N)$ as the analogue of the universal cover of a digraph, and to establish a close connection between displaying trees in $U(N)$ and reconcilingphylogenetic trees with networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1761–1780
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number6
Early online date23 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Phylogenetic networks
  • Multi-labelled trees
  • Graph fibrations
  • Tree and network reconciliation
  • Universal cover of a digraph

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