MRL and SuperFine+MRL: New supertree methods

Nam Nguyen, Siavash Mirarab, Tandy Warnow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Supertree methods combine trees on subsets of the full taxon set together to produce a tree on the entire set of taxa. Of the many supertree methods, the most popular is MRP (Matrix Representation with Parsimony), a method that operates by first encoding the input set of source trees by a large matrix (the "MRP matrix") over {0,1, ?}, and then running maximum parsimony heuristics on the MRP matrix. Experimental studies evaluating MRP in comparison to other supertree methods have established that for large datasets, MRP generally produces trees of equal or greater accuracy than other methods, and can run on larger datasets. A recent development in supertree methods is SuperFine+MRP, a method that combines MRP with a divide-and-conquer approach, and produces more accurate trees in less time than MRP. In this paper we consider a new approach for supertree estimation, called MRL (Matrix Representation with Likelihood). MRL begins with the same MRP matrix, but then analyzes the MRP matrix using heuristics (such as RAxML) for 2-state Maximum Likelihood.Results: We compared MRP and SuperFine+MRP with MRL and SuperFine+MRL on simulated and biological datasets. We examined the MRP and MRL scores of each method on a wide range of datasets, as well as the resulting topological accuracy of the trees. Our experimental results show that MRL, coupled with a very good ML heuristic such as RAxML, produced more accurate trees than MRP, and MRL scores were more strongly correlated with topological accuracy than MRP scores.Conclusions: SuperFine+MRP, when based upon a good MP heuristic, such as TNT, produces among the best scores for both MRP and MRL, and is generally faster and more topologically accurate than other supertree methods we tested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalAlgorithms for Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 26 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • MRL
  • MRP
  • Phylogenetics
  • Supertrees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Structural Biology


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  • Data for SuperFine, DACTAL, and BeeTLe

    Swenson, M. S. (Creator), Suri, R. (Creator), Linder, C. R. (Creator), Warnow, T. (Creator), Nguyen, N. (Creator), Mirarab, S. (Creator), Neves, D. T. (Creator), Sobral, J. L. (Creator), Pingali, K. (Creator), Nelesen, S. (Creator), Liu, K. (Creator) & Wang, L. (Creator), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Sep 20 2011


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