Combinatorics of reticulate evolution

Host Faculty: Engineering
General Subject Area: Applied Mathematics
Project Level: PhD
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Evolution is not always a treelike process because of non-treelike (reticulate) events such as lateral gene transfer and hybridisation. In computational biology, the reticulate evolutionary history of a set of extant species is typically represented by a phylogenetic network, a particular type of rooted acyclic directed graph. Although reticulation has long been recognised in evolutionary biology, mathematical investigations into understanding the combinatorial and algorithmic properties of phylogenetic networks are relatively new. This project aims to answer questions like the following: How hard is it to decide if a given gene tree is embeddable in a given network? If we select a network with a certain number of leaves uniformly at random, how many reticulations do we expect it to have when the number of leaves is sufficiently large? When is a network determined by the path-length distances between its leaves? What is the minimum number of reticulations for a network to embed a given set of conflicting gene trees?


Supervisor: Charles Semple

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Combinatorics, phylogenetics