Classes of explicit phylogenetic networks and their biological and mathematical significance

Sungsik Kong, Joan Carles Pons, Laura Kubatko, Kristina Wicke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The evolutionary relationships among organisms have traditionally been represented using rooted phylogenetic trees. However, due to reticulate processes such as hybridization or lateral gene transfer, evolution cannot always be adequately represented by a phylogenetic tree, and rooted phylogenetic networks that describe such complex processes have been introduced as a generalization of rooted phylogenetic trees. In fact, estimating rooted phylogenetic networks from genomic sequence data and analyzing their structural properties is one of the most important tasks in contemporary phylogenetics. Over the last two decades, several subclasses of rooted phylogenetic networks (characterized by certain structural constraints) have been introduced in the literature, either to model specific biological phenomena or to enable tractable mathematical and computational analyses. In the present manuscript, we provide a thorough review of these network classes, as well as provide a biological interpretation of the structural constraints underlying these networks where possible. In addition, we discuss how imposing structural constraints on the network topology can be used to address the scalability and identifiability challenges faced in the estimation of phylogenetic networks from empirical data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number47
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Hybridization
  • Introgression
  • Lateral gene transfer
  • Phylogenetic network
  • Phylogenetic tree


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