On asymptotic joint distributions of cherries and pitchforks for random phylogenetic trees

Kwok Pui Choi, Gursharn Kaur, Taoyang Wu

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Tree shape statistics provide valuable quantitative insights into evolutionary mechanisms underpinning phylogenetic trees, a commonly used graph representation of evolutionary relationships among taxonomic units ranging from viruses to species. We study two subtree counting statistics, the number of cherries and the number of pitchforks, for random phylogenetic trees generated by two widely used null tree models: the proportional to distinguishable arrangements (PDA) and the Yule-Harding-Kingman (YHK) models. By developing limit theorems for a version of extended Pólya urn models in which negative entries are permitted for their replacement matrices, we deduce the strong laws of large numbers and the central limit theorems for the joint distributions of these two counting statistics for the PDA and the YHK models. Our results indicate that the limiting behaviour of these two statistics, when appropriately scaled using the number of leaves in the underlying trees, is independent of the initial tree used in the tree generating process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number40
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2021


  • Joint subtree distributions
  • Limit distributions
  • PDA model
  • Pólya urn model
  • Tree shape
  • Yule-Harding-Kingman model

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