The occurrence of reticulations in the evolutionary history of species poses serious challenges for all modern practitioners of phylogenetic analysis. Such events, including hybridization, introgression, and lateral gene transfer, lead to evolutionary histories that cannot be adequately represented in the form of phylogenetic trees. Although numerous methods that allow for the reconstruction of phylogenetic networks have been proposed in recent years, the detection of reticulations still remains problematic. In this paper we present a Hybrid Detection Criterion (HDC) along with a statistical procedure that allows for the identification of hybrid taxa. The test assesses whether a putative hybrid is consistently intermediate between its postulated parents, with respect to the other taxa. The performance of the statistical method is evaluated using known hybrids of the genus Aphelandra (Acanthaceae) using two network methods: reticulograms and split decomposition graphs. Our results indicate that the HDC test is reliable when used jointly with split decomposition. On the other hand, the test lacks power and provides misleading results when using reticulograms. We then show how the procedure can be used as a tool to identify putative hybrids.
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