Species, clusters and the ‘Tree of life’: A graph-theoretic perspective

A Dress, V Moulton, M Steel, T Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A hierarchical structure describing the inter-relationships of species has long been a fundamental concept in systematic biology, from Linnean classification through to the more recent quest for a ‘Tree of Life’. In this paper we use an approach based on discrete mathematics to address a basic question: could one delineate this hierarchical structure in nature purely by reference to the ‘genealogy’ of present-day individuals, which describes how they are related with one another by ancestry through a continuous line of descent? We describe several mathematically precise ways by which one can naturally define collections of subsets of present day individuals so that these subsets are nested (and so form a tree) based purely on the directed graph that describes the ancestry of these individuals. We also explore the relationship between these and related clustering constructions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-542
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Volume265
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2010

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