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Genomic data have had a profound impact on nearly every biological discipline. In systematics and phylogenetics, the thousands of loci that are now being sequenced can be analyzed under the multispecies coalescent model (MSC) to explicitly account for gene tree discordance due to incomplete lineage sorting (ILS). However, the MSC assumes no gene flow post divergence, calling for additional methods that can accommodate this limitation. Explicit phylogenetic network methods have emerged, which can simultaneously account for ILS and gene flow by representing evolutionary history as a directed acyclic graph. In this point-of-view we highlight some of the strengths and limitations of phylogenetic networks and argue that tree-based inference should not be blindly abandoned in favor of networks simply because they represent more parameter rich models. Attention should be given to model selection of reticulation complexity, and the most robust conclusions regarding evolutionary history are likely obtained when combining tree- and network-based inference.


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in [insert journal title] following peer review. The version of record, Christopher Blair, Cécile Ané, Phylogenetic trees and networks can serve as powerful and complementary approaches for analysis of genomic data, Systematic Biology, syz056, is available online at:

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