The tree of blobs of a species network: identifiability under the coalescent

Allman ES, Baños H, Mitchell JD and Rhodes JA

Journal of Mathematical Biology


Inference of species networks from genomic data under the Network Multispecies Coalescent Model is currently severely limited by heavy computational demands. It also remains unclear how complicated networks can be for consistent inference to be possible. As a step toward inferring a general species network, this work considers its tree of blobs, in which non-cut edges are contracted to nodes, so only tree-like relationships between the taxa are shown. An identifiability theorem, that most features of the unrooted tree of blobs can be determined from the distribution of gene quartet topologies, is established. This depends upon an analysis of gene quartet concordance factors under the model, together with a new combinatorial inference rule. The arguments for this theoretical result suggest a practical algorithm for tree of blobs inference, to be fully developed in a subsequent work.