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FastJoin, an improved neighbor-joining algorithm

Author(s): J. Wang, M.-Z. Guo and L.L. Xing

Reconstructing the evolutionary history of a set of species is an elementary problem in biology, and methods for solving this problem are evaluated based on two characteristics: accuracy and efficiency. Neighbor-joining reconstructs phylogenetic trees by iteratively picking a pair of nodes to merge as a new node until only one node remains; due to its good accuracy and speed, it has been embraced by the phylogeny research community. With the advent of large amounts of data, improved fast and precise methods for reconstructing evolutionary trees have become necessary. We improved the neighbor-joining algorithm by iteratively picking two pairs of nodes and merging as two new nodes, until only one node remains. We found that another pair of true neighbors could be chosen to merge as a new node besides the pair of true neighbors chosen by the criterion of the neighbor-joining method, in each iteration of the clustering procedure for the purely additive tree. These new neighbors will be selected by another iteration of the neighbor-joining method, so that they provide an improved neighbor-joining algorithm, by iteratively picking two pairs of nodes to merge as two new nodes until only one node remains, constructing the same phylogenetic tree as the neighbor-joining algorithm for the same input data. By combining the improved neighbor-joining algorithm with styles upper bound computation optimization of RapidNJ and external storage of ERapidNJ methods, a new method of reconstructing phylogenetic trees, FastJoin, was proposed. Experiments with sets of data showed that this new neighbor-joining algorithm yields a significant speed-up compared to classic neighbor-joining, showing empirically that FastJoin is superior to almost all other neighbor-joining implementations.