Kozak et al. (2015, Syst. Biol., 64: 505) portrayed the inference of evolutionary history among Heliconius and allied butterfly genera as a particularly difficult problem for systematics due to prevalent gene conflict caused by interspecific reticulation. To control for this, Kozak et al. conducted a series of multispecies coalescent phylogenetic analyses that they claimed revealed pervasive conflict among markers, but ultimately chose as their preferred hypothesis a phylogenetic tree generated by the traditional supermatrix approach. Intrigued by this seemingly contradictory set of conclusions, we conducted further analyses focusing on two prevalent aspects of the data set: missing data and the uneven contribution of phylogenetic signal among markers. Here, we demonstrate that Kozak et al. overstated their findings of reticulation and that evidence of gene‐tree conflict is largely lacking. The distribution of intrinsic homoplasy and incongruence homoplasy in their data set does not follow the pattern expected if phylogenetic history had been obscured by pervasive horizontal gene flow; in fact, noise within individual gene partitions is ten times higher than the incongruence among gene partitions. We show that the patterns explained by Kozak et al. as a result of reticulation can be accounted for by missing data and homoplasy. We also find that although the preferred topology is resilient to missing data, measures of support are sensitive to, and strongly eroded by too many empty cells in the data matrix. Perhaps more importantly, we show that when some taxa are missing almost all characters, adding more genes to the data set provides little or no increase in support for the tree.
Cladistics – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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