Phylogenetic diversity and the greedy algorithm
Given a phylogenetic tree with leaves labelled by a collection of species, and with weighted edges, the 'phylogenetic diversity' of any subset of the species is the sum of the edge weights of the minimal subtree connecting the species. This measure is relevant in biodiversity conservation where one may wish to compare different subsets of species according to how much evolutionary variation they encompass. In this note we show that phylogenetic diversity has an attractive mathematical property that ensures that we can solve the following problem easily by the greedy algorithm: find a subset of the species of any given size k of maximal phylogenetic diversity. We also describe an extension of this result that also allows weights to be assigned to species.
SubjectsField of Research::01 - Mathematical Sciences::0102 - Applied Mathematics::010202 - Biological Mathematics
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