Implications of gene tree heterogeneity on downstream phylogenetic analyses: A case study employing the Fair Proportion index

Kristina Wicke, Md Rejuan Haque, Laura Kubatko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many questions in evolutionary biology require the specification of a phylogeny for downstream phylogenetic analyses. However, with the increasingly widespread availability of genomic data, phylogenetic studies are often confronted with conflicting signal in the form of genomic heterogeneity and incongruence between gene trees and the species tree. This raises the question of determining what data and phylogeny should be used in downstream analyses, and to what extent the choice of phylogeny (e.g., gene trees versus species trees) impacts the analyses and their outcomes. In this paper, we study this question in the realm of phylogenetic diversity indices, which provide ways to prioritize species for conservation based on their relative evolutionary isolation on a phylogeny, and are thus one example of downstream phylogenetic analyses. We use the Fair Proportion (FP) index, also known as the evolutionary distinctiveness score, and explore the variability in species rankings based on gene trees as compared to the species tree for several empirical data sets. Our results indicate that prioritization rankings among species vary greatly depending on the underlying phylogeny, suggesting that the choice of phylogeny is a major influence in assessing phylogenetic diversity in a conservation setting. While we use phylogenetic diversity conservation as an example, we suspect that other types of downstream phylogenetic analyses such as ancestral state reconstruction are similarly affected by genomic heterogeneity and incongruence. Our aim is thus to raise awareness of this issue and inspire new research on which evolutionary information (species trees, gene trees, or a combination of both) should form the basis for analyses in these settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0300900
JournalPloS one
Issue number4 April
StatePublished - Apr 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Implications of gene tree heterogeneity on downstream phylogenetic analyses: A case study employing the Fair Proportion index'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this