Unrooted phylogenetic networks are graphs used to represent reticulate evolutionary relationships. Accurately reconstructing such networks is of great relevance for evolutionary biology. It has recently been conjectured that all unrooted phylogenetic networks for at least five taxa can be uniquely reconstructed from their subnetworks obtained by deleting a single taxon. Here, we show that this conjecture is false, by presenting a counter-example for each possible number of taxa that is at least 4. Moreover, we show that the conjecture is still false when restricted to binary networks. This means that, even if we are able to reconstruct the unrooted evolutionary history of each proper subset of some taxon set, this still does not give us enough information to reconstruct their full unrooted evolutionary history.

Graph reconstruction, Phylogenetics, Undirected graphs, Leaf removal, Ulam’s Conjecture, Phylogenetic Networks
Journal of Mathematical Biology
Life Sciences and Health

Erdös, P.L, van Iersel, L.J.J, & Jones, M.E.L. (2019). Not all phylogenetic networks are leaf-reconstructible. Journal of Mathematical Biology, 79, 1623–1638. doi:10.1007/s00285-019-01405-9