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Comparing ultraconserved elements and exons for phylogenomic analyses of Middle American cichlids: When data agree to disagree


Alda, Fernando et al. (2021), Comparing ultraconserved elements and exons for phylogenomic analyses of Middle American cichlids: When data agree to disagree, Dryad, Dataset,


Choosing among types of genomic markers to be used in a phylogenomic study can have a major influence on the cost, design, and results of a study. Yet few attempts have been made to compare categories of next-generation sequence markers limiting our ability to compare the suitability of these different genomic fragment types. Here we explore properties of different genomic markers to find if they vary in the accuracy of component phylogenetic trees and to clarify the causes of conflict obtained from different datasets or inference methods. As a test case, we explore the causes of discordance between phylogenetic hypotheses obtained using a novel dataset of ultraconserved elements (UCEs) and a recently published exon dataset of the cichlid tribe Heroini. Resolving relationships among heroine cichlids has historically been difficult, and the processes of diversification and colonization of Middle America and the Greater Antilles are not yet well understood. Despite differences in informativeness and levels of gene tree discordance between UCEs and exons, the resulting phylogenomic hypotheses generally agree on most relationships. The independent datasets disagreed in areas with low phylogenetic signal that were overwhelmed by noise and non-phylogenetic signals. For UCEs, high levels of incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) seem to be a major cause of noise, whereas, for exons, non-phylogenetic signal may be caused by a reduced number of highly informative loci. This paucity of informative loci in exons might be due to heterogeneous substitution rates that are problematic to model (i.e., computationally restrictive) resulting in systematic errors that UCEs (being less informative individually but more uniform) are less prone to. These results generally demonstrate the robustness of phylogenomic methods to accommodate genomic markers with different biological and phylogenetic properties. However, we identify common and unique pitfalls of different categories of genomic fragments when inferring enigmatic phylogenetic relationships.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-0916695

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1354149