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On the information content of discrete phylogenetic characters

Bordewich, Magnus; Deutschmann, Ina Maria; Fischer, Mareike; Kasbohm, Elisa; Semple, Charles; Steel, Mike

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Ina Maria Deutschmann

Mareike Fischer

Elisa Kasbohm

Charles Semple

Mike Steel


Phylogenetic inference aims to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of different species based on genetic (or other) data. Discrete characters are a particular type of data, which contain information on how the species should be grouped together. However, it has long been known that some characters contain more information than others. For instance, a character that assigns the same state to each species groups all of them together and so provides no insight into the relationships of the species considered. At the other extreme, a character that assigns a different state to each species also conveys no phylogenetic signal. In this manuscript, we study a natural combinatorial measure of the information content of an individual character and analyse properties of characters that provide the maximum phylogenetic information, particularly, the number of states such a character uses and how the different states have to be distributed among the species or taxa of the phylogenetic tree.


Bordewich, M., Deutschmann, I. M., Fischer, M., Kasbohm, E., Semple, C., & Steel, M. (2018). On the information content of discrete phylogenetic characters. Journal of Mathematical Biology, 77(3), 527-544.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 6, 2017
Online Publication Date Dec 16, 2017
Publication Date Sep 30, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 27, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 16, 2018
Journal Journal of Mathematical Biology
Print ISSN 0303-6812
Electronic ISSN 1432-1416
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 77
Issue 3
Pages 527-544


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