Split contraction: The untold story

Akanksha Agrawal, Daniel Lokshtanov, Saket Saurabh, Meirav Zehavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The edit operation that contracts edges, which is a fundamental operation in the theory of graph minors, has recently gained substantial scientific attention from the viewpoint of Parameterized Complexity. In this article, we examine an important family of graphs, namely, the family of split graphs, which in the context of edge contractions is proven to be significantly less obedient than one might expect. Formally, given a graph G and an integer k, Split Contraction asks whether there exists X ⊆ E(G) such that G/X is a split graph and |X| ≤ k. Here, G/X is the graph obtained from G by contracting edges in X. Guo and Cai [Theoretical Computer Science, 2015] claimed that Split Contraction is fixed-parameter tractable. However, our findings are different. We show that Split Contraction, despite its deceptive simplicity, is W[1]-hard. Our main result establishes the following conditional lower bound: Under the Exponential Time Hypothesis, Split Contraction cannot be solved in time 2o(ℓ2) · nO(1), where ℓ is the vertex cover number of the input graph. We also verify that this lower bound is essentially tight. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first tight lower bound of the form 2o(ℓ2) · nO(1) for problems parameterized by the vertex cover number of the input graph. In particular, our approach to obtain this lower bound borrows the notion of harmonious coloring from Graph Theory, and might be of independent interest.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalACM Transactions on Computation Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Edge contraction
  • Parameterized complexity
  • Split contraction
  • Split graphs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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