Is It Better to Add Taxa or Characters?

An older paper
just captured my attention. Graybeal 1998 asks in her title, “Is It Better to Add Taxa or Characters to a Difficult Phylogenetic Problem?”

Her abstract gets right to the point (abridged here):
“The effects on phylogenetic accuracy of adding characters and/or taxa were explored using data generated by computer simulation. Taxa were added sequentially to this tree in a manner specifically designed to break up the long branches, and for each tree data matrices of different sizes were simulated. Phylogenetic accuracy was measured in three ways:

  1. proportion of trees that are completely correct,
  2. proportion of correctly reconstructed branches in all trees, and
  3. proportion of trees in which the original four-taxon statement is correctly reconstructed.

Accuracy improved dramatically with the addition of taxa and much more slowly with the addition of characters. If taxa can be added to break up long branches, it is much more preferable to add taxa than characters.”

Happy New Year.

Graybeal A 1998. Is it better to add taxa or characters to a difficult phylogenetic problem? Systematic Biology 47(1):9-17.

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