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DNA samples of live individuals.

It would be more of a mesh/graph than a tree but you get what I mean. I guess we could only have access to potential graphs with varying degrees of probability. In this case, what would be the figures like? What would be the probability of getting the nth level right? Also, we don't care about dead branches (eg. your childless great uncle)

To be honest I don't know if I'm posting this in the right StackExchange.

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closed as not a real question by Did, Michael Greinecker, LVK, Asaf Karagila, William Sep 2 '12 at 16:28

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

To be honest, I do not even see a question here. You should restrict hugely the scope of what you are asking before this becomes suitable to this site (in particular, answerable). From the faq (What kind of questions should I not ask here?): You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. (...) Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much. – Did Oct 4 '11 at 7:03
@Didier: there are many papers on exactly this kind of question. It is clear that at least in general terms the question is answerable and of much interest. – zyx Oct 4 '11 at 7:17
@zyx, you are confirming my point (thanks). Reread your comment and compare to the FAQ. – Did Oct 4 '11 at 7:27
@Didier: the FAQ is defective in restricting questions to "questions based on actual problems that you face". A large proportion of questions here don't meet that constraint but are matters of curiosity, and that is a good thing. The question does comply with the other FAQ recommendations that you quoted: it is easy to interpret and answer without an entire book. – zyx Oct 4 '11 at 7:35
There is now a (beta); I recommend reposting the question there. Exactly how biologists would model genealogies with probability is more specific to their territory than ours. – anon Mar 13 '12 at 6:17
up vote 1 down vote accepted

In more precise terms the question can be interpreted as: whether realistic probabilistic models of evolution are identifiable, and/or whether particular reconstruction procedures are statistically consistent. That is, can the model with all its parameters (such as the topology of the genealogical tree, the lengths of all the tree branches, or various rates of mutation) be inferred given unlimited amounts of observable data.

In any evolutionary process a lot of information is lost over time but it might still be possible to reconstruct some of the structure, such as the evolutionary tree but not the exact DNA profile of all the ancestors, from complete data on the living descendants. Whether a single tree can be consistently assigned to the set of DNA samples is dependent on the reconstruction procedure, and different procedures will arrive at different trees.

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