AbstractAn equidistantX-cactus is a type of rooted, arc-weighted, directed acyclic graph with leaf set X, that is used in biology to represent the evolutionary history of a set $$X$$
X
of species. In this paper, we introduce and investigate the space of equidistant X-cactuses. This space contains, as a subset, the space of ultrametric trees on X that was introduced by Gavryushkin and Drummond. We show that equidistant-cactus space is a CAT(0)-metric space which implies, for example, that there are unique geodesic paths between points. As a key step to proving this, we present a combinatorial result concerning ranked rooted X-cactuses. In particular, we show that such graphs can be encoded in terms of a pairwise compatibility condition arising from a poset of collections of pairs of subsets of $$X$$
X
that satisfy certain set-theoretic properties. As a corollary, we also obtain an encoding of ranked, rooted X-trees in terms of partitions of X, which provides an alternative proof that the space of ultrametric trees on X is CAT(0). We expect that our results will provide the basis for novel ways to perform statistical analyses on collections of equidistant X-cactuses, as well as new directions for defining and understanding spaces of more general, arc-weighted phylogenetic networks.