Stochastic birth–death models provide the foundation for studying and simulating evolutionary trees in phylodynamics. A curious feature of such models is that they exhibit fundamental symmetries when the birth and death rates are interchanged. In this article, we first provide intuitive reasons for these known transformational symmetries. We then show that these transformational symmetries (encoded in algebraic identities) are preserved even when individuals at the present are sampled with some probability. However, these extended symmetries require the death rate parameter to sometimes take a negative value. In the last part of this article, we describe the relevance of these transformations and their application to computational phylodynamics, particularly to maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference methods, as well as to model selection.

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