Ancestral sequence reconstruction with Maximum Parsimony
Mathematics - Combinatorics | Quantitative Biology - Populations and Evolution
arxiv: Quantitative Biology::Genomics | Quantitative Biology::Populations and Evolution
One of the main aims in phylogenetics is the estimation of ancestral sequences based on present-day data like, for instance, DNA alignments. One way to estimate the data of the last common ancestor of a given set of species is to first reconstruct a phylogenetic tree with some tree inference method and then to use some method of ancestral state inference based on that tree. One of the best-known methods both for tree inference as well as for ancestral sequence inference is Maximum Parsimony (MP). In this manuscript, we focus on this method and on ancestral state inference for fully bifurcating trees. In particular, we investigate a conjecture published by Charleston and Steel in 1995 concerning the number of species which need to have a particular state, say $a$, at a particular site in order for MP to unambiguously return $a$ as an estimate for the state of the last common ancestor. We prove the conjecture for all even numbers of character states, which is the most relevant case in biology. We also show that the conjecture does not hold in general for odd numbers of character states, but also present some positive results for this case.