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Species delimitation using the multi-rate Poisson Tree Processes (mPTP)

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The aim of this project is to implement a fast species delimitation method, based on PTP (Zhang et al. 2013). The new tool should:

  • have an open source code with an appropriate open source license.
  • 64-bit multi-threaded design that handles very large datasets.

We have implemented a tool called mPTP which can handle very large biodiversity datasets. It implements a fast method to compute the ML delimitation from an inferred phylogenetic tree of the samples. Using MCMC, it also computes the support values for each clade, which can be used to assess the confidence of the ML delimitation.

ML delimitation mPTP implements two flavours of the point-estimate solution. First, it implements the original method from (Zhang et al. 2013) where all within-species processes are modelled with a single exponential distribution. mPTP uses a dynamic programming implementation which estimates the ML delimitation faster and more accurately than the original PTP. The dynamic programming implementation has similar properties as (Gulek et al. 2010). See the wiki for more information. The second method assumes a distinct exponential distribution for the branching events of each of the delimited species allowing it to fit to a wider range of empirical datasets.

MCMC method mPTP generates support values for each clades. They represent the ratio of the number of samples for which a particular node was in the between-species process, to the total number of samples.

Compilation instructions

Cloning the repo Clone the repo and build the executable and the documentation using the following commands.

git clone
cd mptp 
make install  # as root, or run sudo make install

You will need GNU Bison and Flex installed on your system. When using the cloned repository version, you will also need autoconf and automake installed. Optionally, you will need the GNU Scientific Library for the likelihood ratio test. If it is not available on your system, ratio test will be disabled.

On a Debian-based Linux system, the four packages can be installed using the command

sudo apt-get install libgsl0-dev flex bison autotools-dev autoconf

Optionally, you can install the bash auto-completion for mptp. To do that, replace the ./configure step above with

./configure --with-bash-completions=DIR

where DIR is the directory where bash autocompletion is stored. You can use pkg-config as follows:

./configure --with-bash-completions=`pkg-config --variable=completionsdir bash-completion`

Source distribution To download the source distribution from a release and build the executable and the documentation, use the following commands:

tar zxvf mptp-src-0.2.5.tar.gz
cd mptp-src-0.2.5
make install  # as root, or run sudo make install

Note that, similarly to cloning the repository, you will need GNU Bison and Flex installed on your system, and optionally, the GNU Scientific Library. However, you do not need autoconf and automake installed (note the missing ./autogen). See also the notes for installing the bash auto-completition, as described in the Cloning the repo section.

Binary distribution Starting with version 0.2.0, binary distribution files (.tar.gz) for GNU/Linux on x86-64 containing pre-compiled binaries as well as the documentation (man and pdf files) will be made available as part of each release. The included executables currently are not compiled with libgsl support. This means, Likelihood Ratio Test (LRT) is disabled for the single-rate PTP model. However, we intend to implement dynamic loading for libgsl and therefore this issue will disappear in the next releases. Until then, please consider compiling from source in order to enable libgsl.

To use the pre-compiled binary, download the appropriate executable for your system using the following commands if you are using a Linux system:

tar zxvf mptp-0.2.5-linux-x86_64.tar.gz

You will now have the binary distribution in a folder called mptp-0.2.5-linux-x86_64 in which you will find three subfolders bin, man and doc. We recommend making a copy or a symbolic link to the mptp binary bin/mptp in a folder included in your $PATH, and a copy or a symbolic link to the mptp man page man/mptp.1 in a folder included in your $MANPATH. The PDF version of the manual is available in doc/mptp_manual.pdf.

Implementation details and method description

Please see the manuscript for details:

Kapli T, Lutteropp S, Zhang J, Kobert K, Pavlidis P, Stamatakis A, Flouri T. (2016) Multi-rate Poisson tree processes for single-locus species delimitation under maximum likelihood and Markov chain Monte Carlo. Bioinformatics 33(11):1630-1638. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btx025

Command-line options

General options:

  • --help
  • --version
  • --quiet
  • --tree_show
  • --multi
  • --single
  • --ml
  • --mcmc INT
  • --mcmc_sample INT
  • --mcmc_log
  • --mcmc_burnin INT
  • --mcmc_startnull
  • --mcmc_startrandom
  • --mcmc_startml
  • --mcmc_credible REAL
  • --mcmc_runs INT
  • --outgroup TAXA
  • --outgroup_crop
  • --minbr REAL
  • --minbr_auto FILENAME
  • --pvalue REAL
  • --precision INT

Input and output options:

  • --tree_file FILENAME
  • --output_file FILENAME

Visualization options:

  • --svg_width INT
  • --svg_fontsize INT
  • --svg_tipspacing INT
  • --svg_legend_ratio <0..1>
  • --svg_nolegend
  • --svg_marginleft INT
  • --svg_marginright INT
  • --svg_margintop INT
  • --svg_marginbottom INT
  • --svg_inner_radius INT

Usage example

mptp --ml --multi --tree_file testTree --output_file out --outgroup A,C --tree_show
mptp --mcmc 50000000 --multi --mcmc_sample 1000000 --mcmc_burnin 1000000 --tree_file tree.newick --output_file out


If mptp was installed according to the Compilation instructions you can access the man pages by:

man mptp

A comprehensive documentation is also available in the wiki.

License and third party licenses

The code is currently licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License version 3.


File Description
arch.c Architecture specific code (Mac/Linux).
auto.c Code for auto-detecting minimum branch length.
aic.c Code for Bayesian Single- and multi-rate PTP.
mptp.c Main file handling command-line parameters and executing corresponding parts.
mptp.h MPTP Header file.
dp.c Single- and multi-rate DP heuristics for solving the PTP problem.
fasta.c Code for reading FASTA files.
lex_rtree.l Lexical analyzer parsing newick rooted trees.
lex_utree.l Lexical analyzer parsing newick unrooted trees.
likelihood.c Likelihood rated functions. Automake file for generating
maps.c Character mapping arrays for converting sequences to the internal representation.
multirun.c Functions to execute multiple MCMC runs and compute ASD of support values.
output.c Output related files.
parse_rtree.y Functions for parsing rooted trees in newick format.
parse_utree.y Functions for parsing unrooted trees in newick format.
random.c Functions for creating a random delimitation.
rtree.c Rooted tree manipulation functions.
svg.c SVG visualization of delimited tree.
svg_landscape.c SVG visualization of likelihood landscape.
util.c Various common utility functions.
utree.c Unrooted tree manipulation functions.

The team

  • Paschalia Kapli
  • Sarah Lutteropp
  • Kassian Kobert
  • Pavlos Pavlides
  • Jiajie Zhang
  • Alexandros Stamatakis
  • Tomáš Flouri

Citing mPTP

Please cite the following publication if you use mPTP:

Kapli T, Lutteropp S, Zhang J, Kobert K, Pavlidis P, Stamatakis A, Flouri T. (2016) Multi-rate Poisson tree processes for single-locus species delimitation under maximum likelihood and Markov chain Monte Carlo. Bioinformatics 33(11):1630-1638. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btx025


  • Zhang J., Kapli P., Pavlidis P., Stamatakis A. (2013) A general species delimitation method with applications to phylogenetic placements. Bioinformatics, 29(22):2869-2876. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btt499

  • Nguyen XV, Epps J., Bailey J. (2010) Information Theoretic Measures for Clustering Comparison: Variants, Properties, Normalization and Correction for Chance. Journal of Machine Learning Research, 11:2837-2854. PDF

  • Gulek M., Toroslu IH. (2010) A dynamic programming algorithm for tree-like weighted set packing problem. Information Sciences, 180(20):3974-3979. doi:10.1016/j.ins.2010.06.035

  • Powell JR. (2012) Accounting for uncertainty in species delineation during the analysis of environmental DNA sequence data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 3(1):1-11. doi:10.1111/j.2041-210X.2011.00122.x