Is this network proper forest-based?

Katharina T Huber, Leo van Iersel*, Vincent Moulton, Guillaume E. Scholz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In evolutionary biology, networks are becoming increasingly used to represent evolutionary histories for species that have undergone non-treelike or reticulate evolution. Such networks are essentially directed acyclic graphs with a leaf set that corresponds to a collection of species, and in which non-leaf vertices with indegree 1 correspond to speciation events and vertices with indegree greater than 1 correspond to reticulate events such as gene transfer. Recently forest-based networks have been introduced, which are essentially (multi-rooted) networks that can be formed by adding some arcs to a collection of phylogenetic trees (or phylogenetic forest), where each arc is added in such a way that its ends always lie in two different trees in the forest. In this paper, we consider the complexity of deciding whether a given network is proper forest-based, that is, whether it can be formed by adding arcs to some underlying phylogenetic forest which contains the same number of trees as there are roots in the network. More specifically, we show that it is NP-complete to decide whether a tree-child network with m roots is proper forest-based, for each m≥2. Moreover, for binary networks the problem remains NP-complete when m≥3 but becomes polynomial-time solvable for m=2. We also give a fixed parameter tractable (FPT) algorithm, with parameters the maximum outdegree of a vertex, the number of roots, and the number of indegree 2 vertices, for deciding if a semi-binary network is proper forest-based. A key element in proving our results is a new characterization for when a network with m roots is proper forest-based in terms of certain m-colorings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106500
Number of pages7
JournalInformation Processing Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2025


  • Algorithms
  • Forest-based network
  • Graph coloring
  • Phylogenetic forest
  • Phylogenetic network


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