Felsenstein's tree-pruning algorithm

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In statistical genetics, Felsenstein's tree-pruning algorithm (or Felsenstein's tree-peeling algorithm), attributed to Joseph Felsenstein, is an algorithm for computing the likelihood of an evolutionary tree from nucleic acid sequence data. [1][2]

The algorithm is often used as a subroutine in a search for a maximum likelihood estimate for an evolutionary tree. Further, it can be used in a hypothesis test for whether evolutionary rates are constant (by using likelihood ratio tests). It can also be used to provide error estimates for the parameters describing an evolutionary tree.


  1. ^ Felsenstein, J. (1973). "Maximum Likelihood and Minimum-Steps Methods for Estimating Evolutionary Trees from Data on Discrete Characters". Systematic Biology. 22 (3): 240–249. doi:10.1093/sysbio/22.3.240.
  2. ^ Felsenstein, J. (1981). "Evolutionary trees from DNA sequences: A maximum likelihood approach". Journal of Molecular Evolution. 17 (6): 368–376. Bibcode:1981JMolE..17..368F. doi:10.1007/BF01734359. PMID 7288891. S2CID 8024924.