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      RAxML version 8: a tool for phylogenetic analysis and post-analysis of large phylogenies

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      Oxford University Press

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          Motivation: Phylogenies are increasingly used in all fields of medical and biological research. Moreover, because of the next-generation sequencing revolution, datasets used for conducting phylogenetic analyses grow at an unprecedented pace. RAxML (Randomized Axelerated Maximum Likelihood) is a popular program for phylogenetic analyses of large datasets under maximum likelihood. Since the last RAxML paper in 2006, it has been continuously maintained and extended to accommodate the increasingly growing input datasets and to serve the needs of the user community.

          Results: I present some of the most notable new features and extensions of RAxML, such as a substantial extension of substitution models and supported data types, the introduction of SSE3, AVX and AVX2 vector intrinsics, techniques for reducing the memory requirements of the code and a plethora of operations for conducting post-analyses on sets of trees. In addition, an up-to-date 50-page user manual covering all new RAxML options is available.

          Availability and implementation: The code is available under GNU GPL at

          Contact: alexandros.stamatakis@

          Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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          Most cited references 16

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          RAxML-VI-HPC: maximum likelihood-based phylogenetic analyses with thousands of taxa and mixed models.

          RAxML-VI-HPC (randomized axelerated maximum likelihood for high performance computing) is a sequential and parallel program for inference of large phylogenies with maximum likelihood (ML). Low-level technical optimizations, a modification of the search algorithm, and the use of the GTR+CAT approximation as replacement for GTR+Gamma yield a program that is between 2.7 and 52 times faster than the previous version of RAxML. A large-scale performance comparison with GARLI, PHYML, IQPNNI and MrBayes on real data containing 1000 up to 6722 taxa shows that RAxML requires at least 5.6 times less main memory and yields better trees in similar times than the best competing program (GARLI) on datasets up to 2500 taxa. On datasets > or =4000 taxa it also runs 2-3 times faster than GARLI. RAxML has been parallelized with MPI to conduct parallel multiple bootstraps and inferences on distinct starting trees. The program has been used to compute ML trees on two of the largest alignments to date containing 25,057 (1463 bp) and 2182 (51,089 bp) taxa, respectively.
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            New algorithms and methods to estimate maximum-likelihood phylogenies: assessing the performance of PhyML 3.0.

            PhyML is a phylogeny software based on the maximum-likelihood principle. Early PhyML versions used a fast algorithm performing nearest neighbor interchanges to improve a reasonable starting tree topology. Since the original publication (Guindon S., Gascuel O. 2003. A simple, fast and accurate algorithm to estimate large phylogenies by maximum likelihood. Syst. Biol. 52:696-704), PhyML has been widely used (>2500 citations in ISI Web of Science) because of its simplicity and a fair compromise between accuracy and speed. In the meantime, research around PhyML has continued, and this article describes the new algorithms and methods implemented in the program. First, we introduce a new algorithm to search the tree space with user-defined intensity using subtree pruning and regrafting topological moves. The parsimony criterion is used here to filter out the least promising topology modifications with respect to the likelihood function. The analysis of a large collection of real nucleotide and amino acid data sets of various sizes demonstrates the good performance of this method. Second, we describe a new test to assess the support of the data for internal branches of a phylogeny. This approach extends the recently proposed approximate likelihood-ratio test and relies on a nonparametric, Shimodaira-Hasegawa-like procedure. A detailed analysis of real alignments sheds light on the links between this new approach and the more classical nonparametric bootstrap method. Overall, our tests show that the last version (3.0) of PhyML is fast, accurate, stable, and ready to use. A Web server and binary files are available from
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              A rapid bootstrap algorithm for the RAxML Web servers.

              Despite recent advances achieved by application of high-performance computing methods and novel algorithmic techniques to maximum likelihood (ML)-based inference programs, the major computational bottleneck still consists in the computation of bootstrap support values. Conducting a probably insufficient number of 100 bootstrap (BS) analyses with current ML programs on large datasets-either with respect to the number of taxa or base pairs-can easily require a month of run time. Therefore, we have developed, implemented, and thoroughly tested rapid bootstrap heuristics in RAxML (Randomized Axelerated Maximum Likelihood) that are more than an order of magnitude faster than current algorithms. These new heuristics can contribute to resolving the computational bottleneck and improve current methodology in phylogenetic analyses. Computational experiments to assess the performance and relative accuracy of these heuristics were conducted on 22 diverse DNA and AA (amino acid), single gene as well as multigene, real-world alignments containing 125 up to 7764 sequences. The standard BS (SBS) and rapid BS (RBS) values drawn on the best-scoring ML tree are highly correlated and show almost identical average support values. The weighted RF (Robinson-Foulds) distance between SBS- and RBS-based consensus trees was smaller than 6% in all cases (average 4%). More importantly, RBS inferences are between 8 and 20 times faster (average 14.73) than SBS analyses with RAxML and between 18 and 495 times faster than BS analyses with competing programs, such as PHYML or GARLI. Moreover, this performance improvement increases with alignment size. Finally, we have set up two freely accessible Web servers for this significantly improved version of RAxML that provide access to the 200-CPU cluster of the Vital-IT unit at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and the 128-CPU cluster of the CIPRES project at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. These Web servers offer the possibility to conduct large-scale phylogenetic inferences to a large part of the community that does not have access to, or the expertise to use, high-performance computing resources.

                Author and article information

                Oxford University Press
                1 May 2014
                21 January 2014
                21 January 2014
                : 30
                : 9
                : 1312-1313
                1Scientific Computing Group, Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, 69118 Heidelberg and 2Department of Informatics, Institute of Theoretical Informatics, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 76128 Karlsruhe, Germany
                Author notes

                Associate Editor: Jonathan Wren

                © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact

                Pages: 2
                Applications Notes

                Bioinformatics & Computational biology


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