Phylogenomics Uncovers Confidence and Conflict in the Rapid Radiation of Australo-Papuan Rodents

Emily J. Roycroft*, Adnan Moussalli, Kevin C. Rowe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The estimation of robust and accurate measures of branch support has proven challenging in the era of phylogenomics. In data sets of potentially millions of sites, bootstrap support for bifurcating relationships around very short internal branches can be inappropriately inflated. Such overestimation of branch support may be particularly problematic in rapid radiations, where phylogenetic signal is low and incomplete lineage sorting severe. Here, we explore this issue by comparing various branch support estimates under both concatenated and coalescent frameworks, in the recent radiation Australo-Papuan murine rodents (Muridae: Hydromyini). Using nucleotide sequence data from 1245 independent loci and several phylogenomic inference methods, we unequivocally resolve the majority of genus-level relationships within Hydromyini. However, at four nodes we recover inconsistency in branch support estimates both within and among concatenated and coalescent approaches. In most cases, concatenated likelihood approaches using standard fast bootstrap algorithms did not detect any uncertainty at these four nodes, regardless of partitioning strategy. However, we found this could be overcome with two-stage resampling, that is, across genes and sites within genes (using-bsam GENESITE in IQ-TREE). In addition, low confidence at recalcitrant nodes was recovered using UFBoot2, a recent revision to the bootstrap protocol in IQ-TREE, but this depended on partitioning strategy. Summary coalescent approaches also failed to detect uncertainty under some circumstances. For each of four recalcitrant nodes, an equivalent (or close to equivalent) number of genes were in strong support ($>$ 75% bootstrap) of both the primary and at least one alternative topological hypothesis, suggesting notable phylogenetic conflict among loci not detected using some standard branch support metrics. Recent debate has focused on the appropriateness of concatenated versus multigenealogical approaches to resolving species relationships, but less so on accurately estimating uncertainty in large data sets. Our results demonstrate the importance of employing multiple approaches when assessing confidence and highlight the need for greater attention to the development of robust measures of uncertainty in the era of phylogenomics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-444
Number of pages14
JournalSystematic Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


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