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PARTIAL DUALS OF PLANE GRAPHS, SEPARABILITY AND THE GRAPHS

OF KNOTS
IAIN MOFFATT

Abstract. The concept of the partial dual of an embedded graph was recently introduced by
S. Chmutov. Partial duals of an embedded graph are obtained by forming the geometric dual
with respect to only a subset of edges of the graph. Partial duality is proving to have far-reaching
consequences. In this paper we provide a characterization of the set of embedded graphs that are
partial duals of plane graphs. We characterize partial duals of plane graphs in terms of the existence
of 1-sum decompositions of the embedded graph into two (not necessarily connected) plane graphs.
This provides a connection between the genus of partial duals and separability.
The class of embedded graphs that are partial duals of plane graphs is important since this
is precisely the class of embedded graphs that describes knots and links. Our characterization
of partial duals of plane graphs provides a characterization of the class of embedded graphs that
represents link diagrams. We apply this characterization to nd a move that relates all of the link
diagrams that are presented by the same ribbon graph.
1. Introduction
Here we are interested in the structure of those embedded graphs that are partial duals of plane
graphs. Partial duality, introduced by Chmutov in [8], is an extension of the geometric or Euler-
Poincare dual of an embedded graph. Roughly speaking, the partial duals of an embedded graph are
obtained by forming the dual with respect to only a subset of edges of the graph (a formal denition
is given Subsection 2.3). Chmutov introduced partial duals in [8] order to unify the various recent
realizations of the Jones polynomial of a link as an evaluation of Bollobas and Riordan [3, 4] and Las
Vergnas [23] topological Tutte polynomial (see also [26]). These connections extend the well known
theorem of Thistlethwaite, from [29], relating the Jones and Tutte polynomials. The connections
between graph theory and knot theory provide the main motivation for the results presented in
this paper.
Partial duality appears to be a fundamental operation on embedded graphs, and many results and
applications of duality extend to partial duals. For example, the classical relationship relating the
Tutte polynomials of a plane graph and its duals, T(G; x, y) = T(G

; y, x) (and the corresponding


result for the topological Tutte polynomial [14, 25, 15]), extends to a partial duality relation for
the topological Tutte polynomial [8] (see also [27, 31]). The algebraic characterization of geometric
duals due to Whitney for plane graphs [34], and Edmonds for higher genus embeddings [13] was
shown to extend to partially dual graphs in [28]. The classical connections between duals and
medial graphs were also shown in [16] to extend to analogous relations between partial duals (and
more generally twisted duals). In addition to the applications to knot theory discussed above and
below, partial duality has been used in an essential way to construct a pseudo-tree expansion of the
topological Tutte polynomial [32]; and has also found applications in quantum eld theory [22].
Date: July 27, 2010.
2010 Mathematics Subject Classication. Primary: 05C10, 57M15, Secondary: 57M25, 05C75.
Key words and phrases. Partial duality, checkerboard graph, dual, Tait graph, separability, 1-sum, embedded
graph, ribbon graph, knots and links, plane graphs.

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688, USA;
imoffatt@jaguar1.usouthal.edu.
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In the formation of a partial dual, the geometric dual is only formed with respect to a subset of
edges. Graph theoretic and topological structures can therefore vary widely over the set of partial
duals of an embedded graph. In particular, the genus of an embedded graph and one of its partial
duals can be very dierent. (This contrasts with geometric duals where G and G

have the same


genus.) In this paper we study embedded graphs that admit plane (i.e. genus 0) partial duals.
It turns out that the question of whether or not an embedded graph has a plane partial dual is
intimately related to the separability of that graph.
Embedded graphs that are partial duals of plane graphs are important since such graphs are
exactly the set of graphs that describe knot and link diagrams. It is this connection between knot
and graph theory that motivates the study of partial duals of plane graphs presented here. We now
will briey outline this motivation.
There is a classical and well-known way to associate a (signed) plane graph, called the Tait graph
(or checkerboard graph or 2-face graph), to the diagram of a link: start with a checkerboard colouring
of a link diagram; place a vertex in each black face; add an edge between vertices corresponding
to incident black faces; and sign the edges to record the crossing type. (See Subsection 2.2 and
Figure 4.) The graph constructed in this way is a Tait graph. Tait graphs are a standard tool in a
knot theorists toolkit, and have found numerous applications in knot theory and graph theory.
We start by considering the following well-known, basic properties of Tait graphs:
(T1) the two Tait graphs associated with a link diagram are geometric duals (where duality
switches the sign of an edge);
(T2) every signed plane graph is the Tait graph of a link diagram;
(T3) a Tait graph gives rise to a unique link diagram.
Recently, Dasbach, Futer, Kalfagianni, Lin and Stoltzfus extended the idea of a Tait graph in
[10] by associating a set of (signed) embedded graphs to a link diagram. In this construction, each
embedded graph arises by assigning one of the two possible smoothings at each crossing of the
link. (See Subsection 2.2 for the construction of the embedded graph and and Figure 5 for an
example.) The Tait graphs of a link diagram appear in this set of embedded graphs. One of the
key advantages of using non-plane graphs to describe knots is that it provides a way to encode the
crossing structure of a link diagram in the topology of the embedded graph (rather than by using
signs on the edges).
The construction of the embedded graphs of a link diagram is extremely natural and is proving
to be very useful to knot theorists. There have been many recent applications of the embedded
graph of a link diagram. These include applications to the Jones and HOMFLY-PT polynomials
[6, 7, 8, 10, 26, 27, 32]; Khovanov homology [5, 10]; knot Floer homology [24]; Turaev genus
[30, 24, 1]; Quasi-alternating links [35]; the coloured Jones polynomial [18]; the signature of a knot
[12]; the determinant of a knot [10, 11]; and hyperbolic knot theory [17].
Given the number of applications of the embedded graphs of a link diagram to knot theory,
understanding the structure of the set of embedded graphs of a knot is a fundamental and important
problem. The work presented in this paper is motivated by this problem of understanding the
embedded graphs of a link. In particular we answer the following three questions on the natural
extensions of Properties T1-T3 of Tait graphs to the embedded graphs of a link:
(Q1) how are the ribbon graphs of a link diagram related to each other?
(Q2) Which ribbon graphs arise as ribbon graphs of a link diagram?
(Q3) What is the relation between links that have the same signed ribbon graph?
This paper is structured as follows. We begin with preliminary denitions and results on embed-
ded graphs, Tait graphs, the embedded graphs of a link and partial duals in Section 2. This section
contains an answer to Question Q1 and reformulations of and discussions about Questions Q2 and
Q3. Section 3 is concerned with separability, 1-sums and decompositions of embedded graphs.
2
These results are central to answering Questions Q2 and Q3. In Section 4, we characterize partial
duals of plane graphs in terms of the existence of a 1-decomposition of an embedded graph into
two (not necessarily connected) plane graphs. This provides a new connection between the genus
of partial duals and separability and answers Question Q2. Section 5 discusses how plane partial
duals are related to each other, as well as how 1-decompositions of an embedded graph are related
to each other. Finally, Section 6 provides the solution to Question Q3 by describing how link
diagrams that are presented by the same ribbon graph are related to each other.
A reader who is interested only in the graph theoretical results, and not the applications to knot
theory, may opt to read only Sections 2.1, 2.3, 3, 4 and 5. This sequence of sections contains the
complete graph theoretical results of this paper with only a few references to the knot theoretical
applications.
I would like to thank Scott Carter, Sergei Chmutov and Martin Loebl for helpful conversations.
Part of this work was undertaken while I was visiting the Department of Applied Mathematics
(KAM) of Charles University, Prague. I would like to thank KAM for its hospitality.
2. The graphs of link diagrams
In this section we set up our notation and describe the knot theoretical and the graph theoretical
problems that we investigate here.
2.1. Embedded graphs. Although we will primarily work in the language of ribbon graphs, at
times we will nd it convenient to use other representations graphs in surfaces. We will use the term
embedded graph loosely to mean any of three equivalent representations of graphs in surfaces:
(1) a cellularly embedded graph, that is, a graph embedded in a surface such that every face is
a 2-cell;
(2) a ribbon graph, also known as a band decomposition and a fatgraph;
(3) an arrow presentation.
These three equivalent representations will arise naturally in dierent settings throughout the paper
(for example, cellularly embedded graphs arise as Tait graphs, ribbon graphs arise as the embedded
graph of a link diagram, and arrow presentations arise as partial duals). Although we will need all
three of the above representations of an embedded graph, we will generally work in the language
or ribbon graphs which is the most convenient and natural setting for the majority of the results
and constructions in this paper. Accordingly, the following exposition of embedded graphs will be
biased towards the language of ribbon graphs.
We assume the reader is familiar with cellular embeddings of graphs, but we briey review ribbon
graphs, arrow presentations, and the equivalences.
Denition 1. A ribbon graph G = (V (G), E(G)) is a (possibly non-orientable) surface with bound-
ary represented as the union of two sets of topological discs: a set V (G) of vertices, and a set E(G)
of edges such that
(1) the vertices and edges intersect in disjoint line segments;
(2) each such line segment lies on the boundary of precisely one vertex and precisely one edge;
(3) every edge contains exactly two such line segments.
Ribbon graphs are considered up to homeomorphisms of the surface that preserve the vertex-
edge structure. (In particular, the embedding of a ribbon graph in three-space is irrelevant.) We
will say that a ribbon graph is orientable if it is orientable as a surface. The genus of an orientable
ribbon graph is dened to be the genus of the ribbon graph as a punctured surface. We will say
that a ribbon graph is plane if it is orientable and of genus zero. This means that a plane ribbon
graph is the neighbourhood of a plane graph.
3
* * * *
.
Figure 1. Equivalence of ribbon graphs and 2-cell embeddings.
Two vertices and an
edge disc
aligning the arrows identifying arcs
Figure 2. Constructing a ribbon graph from a arrow presentation.
Denition 2 (Chmutov [8]). An arrow presentation consists of a set of circles, each with a collection
of disjoint, labelled arrows, called marking arrows, indicated along their perimeters. Each label
appears on precisely two arrows. Two arrow presentations are considered equivalent if one can be
obtained from the other by reversing the direction of all of the marking arrows which belong to some
subset of labels, or by changing the labelling set. The circles are considered up to homeomorphism.
The equivalence of the three representations is given rigorously in, for example [19]; however it
is intuitively clear. If G is a cellularly embedded graph, a ribbon graph representation results from
taking a small neighbourhood of the embedded graph G. Neighbourhoods of vertices of the graph
G form the vertices of a ribbon graph, and neighbourhoods of the edges of the embedded graph
form the edges of the ribbon graph.
On the other hand, if G is a ribbon graph, we simply sew discs into each boundary component
of the ribbon graph to get the desired surface.
At times we will consider ribbon graphs that are cellularly embedded in a surface. By the above,
cellularly embedded ribbon graphs are equivalent to ribbon graphs.
A ribbon graph can be obtained from an arrow presentation by viewing each circle as the bound-
ary of a disc that becomes a vertex of the ribbon graph. In this paragraph we will call these vertex
discs. Edges are then added to the vertex discs by taking a disc for each label of the marking
arrows. In this paragraph we will call these the edge discs. Orient the edge discs arbitrarily
and choose two non-intersecting arcs on the boundary of each of the edge discs. Orient these arcs
according to the orientation of the edge disc. Finally, identify these two arcs with two marking
arrows, both with the same label, aligning the direction of each arc consistently with the orientation
of the marking arrow. This is illustrated in Figure 2.
Conversely, every ribbon graph gives rise to an arrow presentation. To describe a ribbon graph G
as an arrow presentation, start by arbitrarily orienting and labelling each edge disc in E(G). This
induces an orientation on the boundary of each edge in E(G). Now, on the arc where an edge disc
intersects a vertex disc, place a marked arrow on the vertex disc, labelling the arrow with the label
of the edge it meets and directing it consistently with the orientation of the edge disc boundary.
The boundaries of the vertex set marked with these labelled arrows give the arrow marked circles
of an arrow presentation. This is illustrated in Figure 3.
4
2
3
1 1
2
3
1
2
3
.
Figure 3. Equivalence of arrow presentations and ribbon graphs.
We will say that a ribbon graph is plane is it is a surface of genus zero. Plane ribbon graphs
correspond to plane graphs. Because of this identication, we will often abuse notation and refer
to a (non-)plane ribbon graph simply as a (non-)plane graph. This abuse of notation should
cause no confusion. Plane ribbon graphs are the central objects of study in this paper.
We are motivated by the embedded graphs of link diagrams. In general link diagrams are
described by signed embedded graphs rather than embedded graphs. A ribbon graph or a cellularly
embedded graph G is said to be signed if it is equipped with a mapping from its edge set E(G) to
+, (so a sign + or is assigned to each edge of G). An arrow presentation is said to be
signed if there is a mapping from the set of labels of the arrows to +.. The equivalence between
cellularly embedded graph, ribbon graphs and arrow presentation clearly extends to their signed
counterparts.
We will often want to consider embedded graphs that are obtained from signed embedded graphs
by forgetting the signs. We will refer to such embedded graphs as being unsigned. At times we will
also use the term unsigned to emphasize that a ribbon graph is not equipped with signs. This
double use of the term should cause no confusion.
2.2. The graphs of knots.
2.2.1. Tait graphs. We assume some familiarity with the basics of knot theory, referring the reader
to [9] or any other of the many excellent introductory knot theory texts if he or she needs additional
details.
Recall that a link diagram is a 4-regular graph embedded on the sphere S
2
with an under/over
crossing structure assigned to each vertex, together with a number of embedded simple closed curve.
We will consider link diagrams up to isotopy of S
2
.
Let D S
2
be a link diagram. By a checkerboard colouring of D, we mean the assignment of the
colour black or white to each region of D in such a way that adjacent regions have dierent colours.
The Tait sign of a crossing in a checkerboard coloured link diagram is an element of +, which
is assigned to the crossing according to the following scheme:
+
.
A Tait graph T(D) is a signed plane graph constructed from D as follows: checkerboard colour
the link diagram, place a vertex in each black region and add an edge between two vertices whenever
the corresponding regions of D meet at a crossing. Weight each edge of the graph with the medial
sign of the corresponding crossing. An example of a link diagram and its Tait graph is shown in
Figure 4.
5
+
-
-
-
+
+
+
Figure 4. Forming a Tait graph T(D) of a link diagram D.
Since there are two possible checkerboard colourings of D, every diagram D has exactly two
associated (signed) Tait graphs. The following facts about Tait graphs are well known and readily
seen to be true.
(T1) the two Tait graphs associated with a link diagram are geometric duals;
(T2) every signed plane graph is the Tait graph of a link diagram;
(T3) a Tait graph gives rise to a unique link diagram.
For the rst property, we use the convention that duality switches the sign of an edge, that is if G
is a signed embedded graph, e E(G) with sign then the edge in G

corresponding to e is of sign
. For the third property, note that D is recovered from T(D) by equipping the medial graph of
T(D) with crossings according to the Tait signs.
2.2.2. The ribbon graphs of a link diagram. In [10], Dasbach et. al. extended the concept of a Tait
graph by describing how a set G(D) of ribbon graphs can be associated to a link diagram D. As
mentioned in the introduction, the set G(D) of ribbon graphs of a link diagram has proved to be
very useful in knot theory. We will now describe the construction of the set G(D), however, we
will also sign the edges of our ribbon graphs using the Tait signs of the crossing.
Let D be a link diagram. Every crossing of D admits an A-splicing and a B-splicing as dened
in the following gure:
-
+
+
+
-
-
-
-
+
+
+
-
-
-
+/-
-
+
+
+
-
-
-
A crossing in D. An A-splicing. A B-splicing.
The lines in the gure are called markers.
A state of D is an assignment of an A- or B-splicing to each crossing of D. A sign of a splicing is
an assignment of + or to its marker. If the diagram D is equipped with a checkerboard colouring
then we may use the Tait sign of each crossing to assign a sign to each splicing according to the
following rules:
if the Tait sign is +, then the A-splicing has sign , and the B-splicing has sign +;
if the Tait sign is , then the A-splicing has sign , and the B-splicing has sign +.
A signed state of D is a state of D where a sign is assigned to each marking using the above rules.
A signed ribbon graph G
s
() is obtained from from a signed state of D by resolving all of the
crossings according to the signed states to obtain a set of non-intersecting closed plane curves with
markers between the curves; assigning a distinct colour to each marker; and assigning coloured
arrows to the plane curves according to the following scheme:
+/-
+/-
-
+
+
+
-
-
-
+/-
+/-
e
e
+/-
-
+
+
+
-
-
-
6
-
+
+
+
-
-
-
+
-
-
-
-
+
+
A link diagram D A state s of D. The ribbon graph G
s
(D).
Figure 5. A link diagram D, a state s of D and the corresponding ribbon graph G
s
(D).
(The directions of the arrows should be consistent with an orientation of the plane) This results in
an arrow presentation for a signed ribbon graph. The corresponding ribbon graph is G
s
().
Denition 3 (Dasbach et. al. [10]). Let D be a checkerboard coloured link diagram. Then the
set G
s
(D) of signed ribbon graphs associated with D is dened to be
G
s
(D) = G
s
() | is a signed state of D.
If G G
s
(D) then we say that G is a signed ribbon graph of D, and we will also say that G presents
D.
An example of the ribbon graph of a link is shown in Figure 5
We note that the (un-signed) ribbon graphs constructed by Dasbach et. al in [10] are obtained by
forgetting the signs in the constructions above. We will let G(D) obtain this set of ribbon graphs,
which is obtained from G
s
(D) by forgetting the signs.
The following proposition states that G
s
(D) is independent of the choice of checkerboard colour-
ing used in its construction, hence we may associate G
s
(D) with the link diagram itself rather than
the checkerboard coloured link diagram. The proposition also shows that the ribbon graphs of a
link diagram generalize the concept of the Tait graphs of a link diagram.
Proposition 1. Let D be a link diagram.
(1) G
s
(D) is independent of the choice of checkerboard colouring used in its construction.
(2) Both of the Tait graphs of D are in G
s
(D).
Proof. Item 1, is easily veried by noting that a choice of A- or B-splicing results in the same signed
state at each crossing regardless of the checkerboard colouring at that crossing.
For Item 2, given a checkerboard colouring of the diagram, we can recover one of the Tait graphs
by, at each crossing, choosing the splicing where the arcs follow the black faces of the diagram (so
take a B-splicing at each positive crossing, and an A-splicing at each negative crossing). The other
Tait graph is recovered by following the white faces (so take an A-splicing at each positive crossing,
and a B-splicing at each negative crossing).
Remark 1. For each diagram D, G
s
(D) contains exactly two elements where all of the edges are of
a single sign, either + or . We denote these ribbon graphs by G
+
(D) and G

(D) respectively. The


ribbon graph G

(D) is constructed from D by choosing the state that consists wholly of A-splicings.
It then follows that, after forgetting signs, G

is the ribbon graph associated with the all-A-splicing


from [10]. Similarly, G
+
(D) corresponds to the all-B-splicing from [10]. As was observed in [26]
(using the language to be dened in Subsection 2.3) G

and the ribbon graph associated with the


all-A-splicing are obtained from a Tait graph of D by forming the partial dual with respect to the
set of + edges; and G
+
and the ribbon graph associated with the all-B-splicing are obtained from
a Tait graph of D by forming the partial dual with respect to the set of edges. The two ribbon
graphs G
+
(D) and G

(D) associated with the all-A- and all-B-splicings play a key role in the
applications of the ribbon graphs of a link diagram to knot theory.
7
2.2.3. Three motivating questions. We now come to the three fundamental questions on the ribbon
graphs of link diagrams that motivate the study presented here. We saw in Proposition 1 that
the ribbon graphs of a link generalize Tait graphs. An important problem is to understand how
properties of and results involving Tait graphs extend to ribbon graphs. Our motivation comes
from the following three questions which ask how the three fundamental properties T1-T3 of Tait
graphs extend to ribbon graphs.
(Q1) How are the ribbon graphs of a link diagram related to each other?
(Q2) Which ribbon graphs arise as ribbon graphs of a link diagram?
(Q3) What is the relation between link diagrams that are presented by the same signed ribbon
graph?
Question Q1 has previously been answered by Chmutov [8]. It turns out that the ribbon graphs are
partial duals of each other. We will describe partial duality in Subsection 2.3 and we will explain
the relation between the ribbon graphs of links in the Subsection 2.4.
Turning Question Q2, the rst thing to observe is that not every ribbon graph arises as the
ribbon graph of a link diagram. It is not hard to verify this claim: consider the set of all link
diagrams with exactly three crossings and by construct the set of ribbon graphs that present them.
We nd that the ribbon graph G shown in the second example in Example 2 does not appear in
this set. Therefore G is not a ribbon graph of a link diagram. (As the ribbon graph has three
edges, it can only arise from a link diagram with three crossings.)
Observe that since the signs of the ribbon graph record only the under and over crossing structure
of the corresponding link diagram, a signed ribbon graph arises from a link diagram if and only
if its underlying unsigned ribbon graph arises from a link diagram. Thus it is enough to answer
Question Q2 for unsigned ribbon graphs (i.e. we can work with G(D) rather then G
s
(D)).
We will see in Section 4 that the ribbon graphs that present link diagrams can be characterized
in terms of separability. It is shown that a ribbon graph represents a link diagram if and only if it
admits a particular type of 1-sum decomposition into plane graphs, answering Question Q2 . (The
1-sum decomposition is described in Section 3.)
As for Question Q3, it turns out that although a signed ribbon graph does not, in general,
present a unique link diagram (unlike the case with Tait graphs), all of the link diagrams that a
ribbon graph can present are very closely related to each other. In Section 6 it is shown that all of
the link diagrams presented by the same ribbon graph are related by a summand-ip move (see
Denition 9).
The solutions to all three of the questions Q1-Q3 above are intimately related to partial duality of
ribbon graphs. In the following subsection we describe partial duality. Equipped with this concept,
in Subsection 2.4, we will reformulate questions Q2 and Q3 in the way that we will solve them.
Remark 2. The relation between the ribbon graphs of a link diagram was a primary motivation
for the introduction of partial duality by Chmutov in [8]. Similarly, Tait graphs and their relation
to medial graphs were also the primary motivation for twisted duality, a generalization of duality
introduced by Ellis-Monaghan and the author in [16]. If G and H are embedded graphs and G
m
and
H
m
are their embedded medial graphs, then G and H must be Tait graphs of G
m
and H
m
. It then
follows that G
m
and H
m
are equal as embedded graphs if and only if G and H are geometric duals.
Thus we can take the point of view that the relation of equality as embedded graphs generates
the relation of geometric duality. This point of view suggests that other concepts of equality of
embedded graphs will generate other concepts of duality. In [16] we show that equality as abstract
graphs generates twisted duality, and that equality as combinatorial maps generates partial duality.
Also, [16] contains a way to construct the Tait graphs of non-checkerboard colourable 4-regular
embedded graph.
8
2.3. Partial duality. Partial duality, introduced by Chmutov in [8], is an extension of the concept
of geometric (or Euler-Poincare) duality of embedded graphs. Just as geometric duality related the
two Tait graphs of a link diagram, partial duality relates the ribbon graphs of a link diagram.
This provides an answer to Question Q1. Partial duality will also provide the framework we use to
answer Questions Q2 and Q3. As we would expect, many properties of geometric duality extend
to partial duality [8, 16, 26, 27, 28, 31].
Roughly speaking, a partial dual of an embedded graph is obtained by forming the dual with
respect to a subset of edges of the graph.
Denition 4 (Chmutov [8]). Let G be a signed ribbon graph and A E(G). Arbitrarily orient
and label each of the edges of G (the orientation need not extend to an orientation of the ribbon
graph). The boundary components of the spanning ribbon sub-graph (V (G), A) of G meet the
edges of G in disjoint arcs (where the spanning ribbon sub-graph is naturally embedded in G). On
each of these arcs, place an arrow which points in the direction of the orientation of the edge and
is labelled by the edge it meets. Associate a sign to each label in the following way: if e is a label
of an edge of G with sign , then the arrow labelled by e has sign if the edge is in A, and has
sign otherwise. The resulting decorated boundary components of the spanning ribbon sub-graph
(V (G), A) dene an signed arrow presentation. The signed ribbon graph corresponding to this
signed arrow presentation is the partial dual G
A
of G.
Example 1. The signed ribbon graph G equipped with and arbitrary labelling and orientation of
its edges is shown in Step 1. For this example we take A = 2, 3. The marked spanning ribbon
subgraph (V (G), A) is shown in Step 2 (note the change of signs of the edges in A). The boundary
components of this spanning ribbon subgraph dene a signed arrow presentation (shown in Step
3). The corresponding signed ribbon graph is shown in Step 4. This is the partial dual G
{2,3}
of G.
1
2
3
+

+
1
2
3
1
2
3

+
+
+
Step 1. Step 2.
2
1
3
1
3
2

+
+ +
+

+
Step 3. Steps 4.
Additional examples of partially dual graphs can be found in [8, 27, 28, 31].
For completeness we include the denition of the geometric dual of a ribbon graph. The geometric
dual (or Euler-Poincare dual) G

of a ribbon graph G is the ribbon graph obtained from G in the


following way: regard G = (V (G), E(G)) as a punctured surface. By lling in the punctures using
a set of discs denoted V (G

), we obtain a surface without boundary . G

is then the ribbon


graph with vertex set V (G

) and edge set E(G).


We will use the following basic properties of partial duality.
Proposition 2 (Chmutov [8]). Let G be a ribbon graph and A, B E(G). Then
9
(1) G

= G;
(2) G
E(G)
= G

, where G

is the geometric dual of G;


(3) (G
A
)
B
= G
AB
, where AB = (A B)(A B) is the symmetric dierence of A and B;
(4) G is orientable if and only if G
A
is orientable;
(5) partial duality acts disjointly on connected components.
2.4. Partial duals and the graphs of links. We now have the language to answer question Q1,
which asks how the (signed) ribbon graphs of link diagram are related to each other. The following
proposition, which appears implicitly in [8] and [26], tells us that all of the ribbon graphs in G
s
(D)
are partial duals. This should be compared with the property T1 which states that Tait graphs are
geometric duals.
Proposition 3 (Chmutov [8]). Let D be a link diagram. Then the signed ribbon graph G presents
D (i.e. G G
s
(D)) if and only if G is a partial dual of a Tait graph of D.
Proof. In terms of arrow presentations, taking the partial dual with respect to an edge e can be
described as the following change in the arrow presentation: suppose and are the two arrows
labelled e in the arrow presentation. Draw a line segment with an arrow from the the head of
to the tail of , and a line segment with an arrow from the head of to the tail of . Label both
of these arrows e, and delete and with the arcs containing them. Switch the sign of the edge.
This is illustrated in the following gure:
e e

e
e

.
This is readily seen to correspond to the change in the state of a link diagram cased by switching
between A- and B-splicings at the crossing corresponding to e.
Corollary 1. G G(D) if and only if G is a partial dual of an unsigned Tait graph of D.
Corollary 2. Any two embedded graphs in G(D) (or G
s
(D)) are partial duals.
Corollary 3. G is the (signed) ribbon graph of a link diagram if and only if it is a partial dual of
a (signed) plane graph.
Corollary 3 provides following graph theoretical formulation of question Q2:
(Q2

) Which ribbon graphs are the partial duals of plane graphs?


We will answer this question, and hence question Q2, in Section 4. We will give a characterization
of the ribbon graphs that are partial duals of plane graphs in terms of separability. The contrast
between property T2, which states that every plane graph is a Tait graph, and the more complicated
solution to question Q2 should be noted.
Having found a workable reformulation of Question Q2, let us turn our attention to question Q3.
In order to address this question we need to understand how, if we are given a signed ribbon graph
G, we can recover the link diagrams that have G as their signed ribbon graph. We will begin with
the special case where G is a plane ribbon graph.
Let G be a signed plane ribbon graph. Then we can construct a link diagram on G by drawing
the following conguration on each signed edge of G and connecting the congurations by following
the boundaries of the vertices of G:
+
,
-
.
10
Since G is topologically a punctured sphere, by capping o the punctures of G we can obtain a link
diagram D(G) on the 2-sphere. We will call D(G) the link diagram associated with D.
Clearly, the two Tait graphs of D(G) are G and G

, and D(T(D)) = D.
Now suppose that G is a (not necessarily plane) signed ribbon graph and that G is the ribbon
graph of some link diagram. We want to nd the set D(G) of link diagrams that have G as a signed
ribbon graph. We know that by the construction of G
s
(D), G represents a link diagram D if and
only if G is the partial dual of a Tait graph of D. Since every signed plane graph is a Tait graph
of a link diagram, it follows that
(1) D(G) = D(G
A
) | A E(G) and G
A
is plane.
Notice that although there is a unique link diagram associated with a Tait graph, in general a
ribbon graph can have many plane partial duals, and therefore D(G) can contain more than one
distinct link diagram. However, we will see in Section 6, that all of the link diagrams in D(G) not
only represent the same link, but are very closely related. This result will provide an answer to
question Q3.
3. 1-sums of ribbon graphs
In this section we discuss separability and 1-sums of ribbon graphs. These operations are the
natural extension of the corresponding operations for graphs to t ribbon graphs. We will go on
to dene 1-decompositions of ribbon graphs into two ribbon graphs. We will see in the following
section that 1-decompositions provide a characterization of ribbon graphs that have plane partial
duals. This provides a connection between the genus of a partial dual and the structure of a ribbon
graph.
3.1. Decompositions of embedded graphs. In this subsection we will discuss the separation
of ribbon graphs and its use in obtaining decompositions of ribbon graphs.
Just as with graphs, a decomposition of a ribbon graph G is a family F of edge-disjoint ribbon
subgraphs of G such that
FF
E(F) = E(G).
A separation of a connected ribbon graph G is a decomposition of ribbon graph into two non-
empty connected ribbon subgraphs P and Q which have exactly one vertex in common. If v is the
vertex common to the two subgraphs, we will say that the separation occurs at v, and that v is a
separating vertex.
We will say that a connected ribbon graph G is a 1-sum of ribbon graphs P and Q, written
G = P Q, if there is a separation of G into ribbon graphs P and Q. If the separation occurs at a
vertex v, we will say that the 1-sum occurs at v.
While it would be more conventional to use the symbol
1
to denote the 1-sum operation,
here we use the symbol . This is in order to reduce the number of subscripts in the expressions
that to follow.
Observe that the denition of the 1-sum given above is consistent with the usual denition of
1-sums of graphs from the literature since G = P Q if and only if P Q = K
1
E(K
1
) = K
1
and
G = P Q E(K
1
) = P Q. Also note that a ribbon graph G = P Q if and only if this identity
holds for the underlying abstract graphs of G, P and Q. It is perhaps also worthwhile emphasizing
that a 1-sum is not a join of ribbon graphs (see Section 5 for a denition of a join), although a join
is a 1-sum.
It is important to keep in mind that if we take two dierent separations of G into subgraphs P
1
and Q
1
, and into P
2
and Q
2
, say, where the separation is at the same vertex (so P
1
Q
1
= P
2
Q
2
),
then the topological properties of P
1
and Q
1
, and P
2
and Q
2
can be quite dierent. For example,
the genus 2 ribbon graph with one vertex and four edges can be separated into two subgraph of
genus 2, or two subgraphs of genus 0, or one subgraph of genus 2 and one of genus 0. Here will be
11
particularly interested in the existence separations of a ribbon graph into plane ribbon subgraphs.
Also note that, non-equivalent ribbon graphs can be separated into equal ribbon graphs. For
example, there are two ribbon graphs with one vertex and two edges - one plane and the other of
genus one - but each of these ribbon graphs admits exactly one separation into two ribbon graphs
with one vertex and one edge.
Here we are interested in using separation to obtain a decomposition. In our decompositions, we
will insist that at most one separation occurs at any vertex of the ribbon graph.
Denition 5. Let G be a ribbon graph. We say that G has a 1-decomposition into two graphs if
(1) G has a decomposition into two (not necessarily connected and possibly empty) ribbon
subgraphs P and Q;
(2) each vertex that is incident to edges in both P and Q is a separating vertex of the connected
component of G on which it lies.
In addition, if P and Q are plane, we say that the 1-decomposition is a 1-decomposition into two
plane graphs.
If A E(G), then we say that A denes a 1-decomposition into two graphs if and only if G has
a 1-decomposition into two graphs and A is the edge set of one of these graphs.
Example 2. The following two genus 1 ribbon graphs admit 1-decompositions into two graphs.
Observe that that example on the left admits a 1-decomposition into two plane graphs, while the
example on the right does not.
G =
= P
= Q
G =
= P
= Q
Note that the 1-decompositions in the above examples were separations. We will now give two
examples that illustrate more complicated 1-separations into two plane graphs. The example below
gives a 1-decomposition of the signed ribbon graph G
s
(D) = G from Figure 5.
+
-
-
- -
+
+
-
-
+
+
-
-
+
G =
= P
= Q
In the example below, a 1-decompositions of G into two plane graphs P and Q shown. Note
however that G admits several 1-decompositions into plane graphs P

and Q

, where P

and Q

are
12
not isomorphic to the graphs P and Q shown below.
G =
= P
= Q
Additional examples of 1-decompositions of the above graph are given in Example 7.
We will now describe a few of the basic properties of 1-decompositions that we need later. These
properties are analogies of standard results about separable graphs.
Proposition 4. Let G be a ribbon graph that has a 1-decomposition into the two graphs P and Q.
Then
(1) each cycle of G is contained in a connected component of P or Q;
(2) G is orientable if and only if P and Q are orientable.
Proof. A cycle of G does not contain a separating vertex and so it must be contained in a connected
component of P or Q.
If either P or Q is non-orientable, then G contains a non-orientable subgraph and is therefore
non-orientable. Conversely, if G is non-orientable then G contains a cycle that is homeomorphic to
a Mobius band. By the rst property, this cycle is contained in one of the connected components
of P or Q. Therefore one of P or Q is non-orientable.
Now suppose that G is a connected ribbon graph that has a 1-decomposition into two graphs P
and Q. We will associate a vertex-labelled graph T
(G,P,Q)
to the 1-decomposition. For the vertex
set of T
(G,P,Q)
, take one vertex for each connected component of P and of Q, and label the vertex
by the corresponding connected component. For the edge set, assign one edge between two distinct
vertices if and only if the connected components labelling the vertices meet at a single vertex in G.
Let T
(G,P,Q,)
denote the rooted graph obtained from T
(G,P,Q)
by distinguishing a vertex. We
then dene the height of a vertex of T
(G,P,Q,)
to be the number of edges in the shortest path
between the given vertex and the root (we will see below that T
(G,P,Q)
is connected and so this
denition is sound). This assigns a height to each connected component of P and Q since each
connected component labels a unique vertex of T
(G,P,Q,)
. Finally by the height of T
(G,P,Q,)
, we
mean the maximum of the set of heights of its vertices.
Example 3. This example provides an illustration of the construction of the rooted graph T
(G,P,Q,)
associated with the 1-decomposition given in the last example of Example 2. The root is taken to
be the P
1
labelled component of P.
P
1
P
2
P
3
Q
1
Q
2
Q
3
P
4
P
1
P
2
P
3
Q
1
Q
2 Q
3
P
4
P
1
P
2
P
3
Q
1
Q
2
Q
3
P
4
P
1
P
2
P
3
Q
1
Q
2 Q
3
P
4
13
Proposition 5. Suppose that G is a connected ribbon graph that has a 1-decomposition into two
graphs P and Q. Let T
(G,P,Q)
be the graph associated with this 1-decomposition and T
(G,P,Q,)
be
the height h rooted graph associated with this 1-decomposition. Then the following properties hold.
(1) T
(G,P,Q)
is a tree.
(2) If the root is a connected component of P, then a vertex of T
(G,P,Q,)
is of odd height if
and only if its label is a component of Q; and is of even height if and only if its label is a
component of P.
(3) If the root is a connected component of Q, then a vertex of T
(G,P,Q,)
is of odd height if
and only if its label is a component of P; and is of even height if and only if its label is a
component of Q.
(4) If R
i,j
| j = 1, . . . k
i
denotes the set of connected components of P and Q of height i, then
G =
h

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

and each 1-sum in this expression acts on a dierent vertex.


Proof. (1) A path in T
(G,P,Q)
corresponds to a path in G between the connected components of the
subgraphs of P and Q. It then follows that T
(G,P,Q)
is connected since since G is connected, and
that T
(G,P,Q)
is acyclic since, by Proposition 4 all of the cycles in G are contained in the connected
components of P and Q.
(2) & (3) If R
i
and R
j
are connected components of P or Q that label two vertices in T
(G,P,Q)
that are connected by an edge, then the components R
i
and R
j
meet at a single vertex in G. By
the rst property of Denition 5, it follows that one of the components, R
i
or R
j
, must belong to
P and the other to Q. So if two vertices in T
(G,P,Q)
are adjacent then one must be labelled by a
connected component of P and the other by a connected component of Q, the results follow.
(4) G can be recovered from the tree T
(G,P,Q,)
as follows: start with the height 0 component
R
0,1
, call this G
0
. Given G
i
, construct G
i+1
by 1-summing the height i + 1 components to the R
i,j
components G
i
. Each R
i+1,j
is summed to a component of R
i,j
in G
i
, and since the 1-sums act
on disjoint components, these 1-sums may be carried out in any order. This process ends with G
h
which is equal to G. Thus we have G = G
h
=
h
i=0
{
k
i
j=1
R
i,j
) as required.

4. A characterization of the partial duals of plane graphs


In this section we state and prove our main theorem. This theorem characterizes ribbon graphs
that admit plane partial duals in terms of the existence of a 1-decomposition into two plane graphs.
Theorem 1. Let G be an embedded graph and A E(G). Then G
A
is a plane graph if and only if
A denes a 1-decomposition of G into two plane graphs.
The proof of the theorem is given in Subsections 4.1 and 4.2. We rst state a few corollaries.
Our rst corollary obviously follows immediately from the theorem.
Corollary 4. An embedded graph G is a partial dual of a plane graph if and only if there exists a
1-decomposition of G into two plane graphs.
With these results we can answer Question Q2, which was one of our main motivational problems.
Corollary 5. A connected (signed) embedded graph G represents a link diagram if and only if there
exists a 1-decomposition of G into two plane graphs.
We will apply this characterization in Section 6 to answer the nal motivating problem, Ques-
tion Q3, by relating all link diagrams that are presented by the same ribbon graph.
14
4.1. Proof of the if part of Theorem 1. We begin our proof of Theorem 1 by proving the
following lemma. This lemma will allow us to reduce the height of a 1-decomposition into plane
graphs, by taking the partial duals of the components of maximum height. This will be used in the
inductive proof of the if part of Theorem 1.
Lemma 1. Let G be a ribbon graph such that G = P Q, where Q is a plane ribbon graph. Then
the genus of G
E(Q)
is equal to the genus of P.
In proving this lemma, the language of cellularly embedded ribbon graphs is particularly conve-
nient. As with graphs, we will say that an embedding of a ribbon graph G in a closed surface is
cellular if each component of G is a disc. Note that since a ribbon graph is a punctured surface,
we can obtain a cellular embedding of any ribbon graph by capping o the punctures. Also note
that a ribbon graph is of genus g if and only if it admits a cellular embedding into a surface of
genus g.
We will prove the lemma by starting with a cellular embedding of P in a surface and using
this embedding to construct a cellular embedding of G
E(Q)
= (P Q)
E(Q)
in the same surface .
While reading the the proof of the lemma below, the reader may nd it helpful to consult Figure 6
where the idea behind the proof is illustrated by an example.
Proof. It is enough to prove the lemma in the case where G is connected, so without loss of generality
assume that G is connected.
Suppose that v is the separating vertex of G that partitions G into P and Q, and that v
P
and v
Q
are the vertices in P and Q respectively corresponding to the vertex v. So G = P Q is obtained
from P and Q by identifying v
P
and v
Q
. Let v
Q
v
P
denote the identifying map, and let |

,
denote the restriction of to the boundary.
Now cellularly embed P into a surface , and embed Q into the 2-sphere S
2
in such a way that
v
Q
consists of the Southern hemisphere of S
2
with the equator of S
2
is the boundary of v
Q
. (The
conditions on the embedding involving v
Q
are merely for convenience.) (For an example of these
embeddings see the top row of Figure 6.)
The partial dual G
E(Q)
= (P Q)
E(Q)
can be formed from the embeddings of P and Q in the
following way.
(1) Form the dual Q

S
2
of Q S
2
.
(2) Delete the v
P
P . Also delete the Southern hemisphere of S
2
to obtain an embedding
of Q

in a disc D
2
. (Note that Q

lies entirely in the Northern hemisphere of S


2
.)
(3) Identify the boundaries of D
2
and v
P
using |

. (Note the boundaries of v


P
and v
P
are equal, and the boundaries of D
2
and v
Q
are equal)
(For an example of see the bottom row of Figure 6.) This results in a ribbon graph cellularly
embedded in , and the resulting ribbon graph is readily seen to be the partial dual G
E(Q)
=
(P Q)
E(Q)
(since the process above forms the dual at exactly the edges of G that belong to Q).
Finally, since P and G
E(Q)
can both be cellularly embedded in the surface , they must be of the
same genus.

The idea behind the if part of the proof is as follows. We are given a 1-decomposition of G into
plane graphs P or Q. Suppose that the decomposition is of height h and S
i
is the set of edges of G
belonging to all of the components of the decomposition of height at least i. Then, by Lemma 1, it
follows that G
S
h
admits a 1-decomposition of height h1 into two plane graphs. By repeating this,
it follows that H = (((G
S
h
)
S
h1
))
S
1
admits a height 0 1-decomposition into two plane graphs,
i.e. H is a plane graph. It then follows by Propositions 2 and 5 that H = G
E(P)
or H = G
E(Q)
,
proving the result. This argument is formalized in the following inductive proof.
15
v
v
P
v
Q
G = P Q P Q
Q

G
E(Q)
Redrawing G
E(Q)
Figure 6. An example of the construction used in the proof of Lemma 1
Proof of the if part of Theorem 1. Firstly, since partial duality acts disjointly on disconnected
components (by Proposition 2), it is enough to prove the result for connected graphs. So, without
loss of generality, assume that G is connected.
We will prove the if part of the theorem by induction on the height h of a tree associated with
the 1-decomposition of G.
Base case: Suppose that G has a 1-decomposition into two plane graphs P and Q, and that a tree
associated to 1-decomposition has height h = 0. Then either P or Q is an empty graph. Without
loss of generality assume that Q is empty. Therefore G = P and since P is plane, G plane. Thus
G
E(Q)
= G

= G and G
E(P)
= G
E(G)
= G are both plane.
Inductive hypothesis: Assume that if G has a a 1-decompositions of height h 1 into two plane
graphs P and Q, then G
E(Q)
and G
E(P)
are both plane graphs.
Inductive step: Let G = P Q be a 1-decomposition of height h, where P and Q are plane graphs.
Let T
(G,P,Q,)
be a rooted tree associated with this 1-decomposition.
Let R
i,j
| j = 1, . . . k
i
denote the set of connected components of P and Q of height i, so that,
by Proposition 5,
G =
h

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

.
For simplicity, we will assume, without loss of generality, that the rooted vertex R
0,1
is a connected
component of P. Then by Proposition 5 The edges of Q are the components of odd numbered
height, so
(2) G
E(Q)
=

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

B
where B is set of edges of all of the components of odd height:
B =

h+1
2

i=1

k
i

j=1
E(R
2i1,j
)

.
16
We will partition (and relabel) the components of height h according to the components of height
h 1 as follows: let S
j
= S
j,p
| p = 1, . . . l
j
denote the set of components of height h that are
1-summed to R
h1,j
. In addition, let S = E(R
h,j
) | j = 1, . . . k
h
be the set of edges of components
of height h is the 1-decomposition.
With this notation we have
G
S
=

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

S
=

h2

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

k
h1

j=1
R
h1,j

k
h

j=1
R
h,j
=

h2

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

k
h1

j=1

R
h1,j
l
j

p=1
S
j,p

S
.
Since each S
j,p
meets R
h1,j
at a distinct vertex and meets no other vertex of G S
j,p
, we can
write the above expression as

h2

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

k
h1

j=1

R
h1,j
l
j

p=1
S
j,p

E(S
j
)

,
where, for simplicity, we abuse notation and use E(S
j
) to denote
l
j
p=1
E(S
j,p
), the set of all edges
of the ribbon subgraphs in S
j
. Now by setting

R
h1,j
=

R
h1,j
l
j

p=1
S
j,p

E(S
j
)
,
we can write
(3) G
S
=

h2

i=0

k
i

j=1
R
i,j

k
h1

j=1

R
h1,j
.
Each

R
h1,j
is plane by Lemma 1. From this we deduce that Equation 3 denes a 1-decomposition
of G
S
into two plane graphs (where one plane graphs consist of all of the components of odd
height, and the other of all of the components of even height). (Note that this uses that fact that
Equation 2 denes a 1-decomposition of G.)
It then follows from the inductive hypothesis and Proposition 5 that (G
S
)
B

is plane, where
B

h1
2
i=1
{
k
i
j=1
E(R
2i1,j
)) if h 1 is even
_
h2
2
i=1
{
k
i
j=1
E(R
2i1,j
))_
k
j
j=1
E(

R
h1,j
) if h 1 is odd
is the set of components of odd height in the 1-decomposition for G
S
.
To complete the proof, we need to show that (G
S
)
B

= G
B
. To do this we rst note that by
Proposition 2 (G
S
)
B

= G
SB

where is the symmetric dierence. Then if h is odd


SB

= [E(R
h,j
) | j = 1, . . . , k
h

h1
2

i=1

k
i

j=1
E(R
2i1,j
)

=

h+1
2

i=1

k
i

j=1
E(R
2i1,j
)

= B.
If h is even, then
SB

= [E(R
h,j
) | j = 1, . . . k
h

h2
2

i=1

k
i

j=1
E(R
2i1,j
)

k
j

j=1
E(

R
h1,j
)

17
since
k
j
j=1
E(

R
h1,j
) = E(R
i,j
) | i = h 1, h, and j = 1, . . . , k
i

SB

h2
2

i=1

k
i

j=1
E(R
2i1,j
)

k
j

j=1
E(R
h1,j
) = B
Thus G
B
= (G
S
)
B

and so G
E(Q)
is plane. Also (G
E(Q)
)

= G
E(Q)
)
E(G)
= G
E(Q)E(G)
= G
E(P)
is
plane. This completes the proof.

4.2. Proof of the only if part of Theorem 1. We will need to introduce a certain amount
of terminology for the proof. We begin with a graph G which is cellularly embedded in the sphere
S
2
, and a set of edges A E(G). An arrow presentation for the partial dual G
A
can be obtained by
constructing a set of cycles that follow the boundaries of a small neighbourhood of G A
c
, where
A
c
= E(G) A, and adding coloured arrows as indicated:
e
e
e
e
e
An edge in G . If e A. If e A.
.
Notice that, in this construction, the set of cycles that form the vertices of G
A
follow the boundaries
of the faces of the (not necessarily cellularly) embedded graph G A
c
. (Here the embedding of
GA
c
is obtained from the embedding of G by deleting the edges in A.) We will call the embedded
cycles in this set the vertex cycles. It is clear from the construction that for each colour of the
marking arrows, we can embed a straight line, called a marking line, between the two marking
arrows of the same colour as shown:
e
e
e
e
If e A. If e A.
.
There is a natural correspondence between the marking lines and the edges of G and the edges of
G
A
. We will say that a marking line is in A (respectively A
c
) if it corresponds to an edge in A
(respectively A
c
) . We will refer to the set of vertex cycles equipped with the marking lines as the
cycle diagram for G
A
. The cycle diagram is embedded in the sphere, and the vertex cycles divide
the sphere into disjoint regions which we will refer to as the regions of the cycle diagram. Two
regions are adjacent if they share a common boundary. Note that each marking line is embedded in
a region. An example of these denitions and an illustration of their use in the proof of Theorem 1
is given below.
Example 4. In this example, we provide an example to illustrate the ideas behind the proof of the
only if part of Theorem 1. For this example, we consider the embedded graph G shown below.
In the gure the edges in A
c
are dotted, and the edges in A are solid. G
A
and the cycle diagram
for G
A
are also shown below. (The arrows in the cycle diagrams are omitted for clarity.)
G. The cycle diagram for G
A
. G
A
.
18
Observe that in the cycle diagram for G
A
, the marking lines in A and the marking lines in G
A
lie in
dierent regions. Also if two marking lines line are in adjacent regions then one belongs to A and
the other to A
c
. It then follows that a vertex cycle that meets lines in both A and A
c
corresponds
to a separating vertex of G
A
. (These observations will be shown to hold in the general case in
Lemma 2.) Thus all of the edges in A, say, dene a 1-decomposition into two graphs. Moreover,
the each component of the graph must be plane because of the embedding of the cycle diagram in
S
2
:
The 1-summands arising from A. The 1-summands arising from A
c
.
Thus we have obtained a 1-decomposition into two plane graphs of the partial dual G
A
of the plane
graph G. This completes the example and the illustration of the ideas behind the proof of the only
if part of Theorem 1.
Lemma 2. Let G be a connected graph that is cellularly embedded in the sphere, and let A E(G).
(1) If two marking lines lie in the same region of the cycle diagram for G
A
then they both belong
to A or to A
c
.
(2) If two marking lines lie in adjacent regions of the cycle diagram for G
A
then one belongs to
A and the other belongs to A
c
.
(3) If C is a vertex cycle in the cycle diagram which meets marking lines that belong to both A
and to A
c
, then the vertex in G
A
corresponding to C is a separating vertex.
Proof. (1)& (2) We will prove these properties simultaneously using induction on the number of
edges in A. If A is the empty set then a vertex cycle bounds each vertex of G. Each vertex cycle
bounds two regions one region contains a vertex of G and no marking lines, while the other region
meets every marking cycle and contains marking lines in A
c
. The results are then seen to be true.
Now suppose that that results stated as items (1) and (2) are true for all subsets of edges of size
m. Let |A| = m+ 1 and e A. Then, by the inductive hypothesis, the cycle diagram for G
A{e}
satises the conditions in the lemma. Moreover, the cycle diagram for G
A
is obtained from the
cycle diagram for G
A{e}
by the following change:
A
c
A
c
A
A
A
c
A
c
A
.
(The vertices shown in the gure need not be distinct.) In the gure above, the regions containing
the marking lines in A and the marking lines in A
c
in a neighbourhood of the edge e is shown.
From the gure and the inductive hypothesis, we see that a region of the cycle diagram of G
A
only
contains A or A
c
marking lines and adjacent regions contain marking lines from dierent sets out
of A and A
c
.
(3) Consider the cycle diagram for G
A
. Since each vertex cycle C is an embedding of a circle in
the plane it partitions the plane into two discs. Call one of these discs the interior of C and the
other the exterior of C.
Now let C be a vertex cycle in the cycle diagram which meets marking lines that belong to both
A and and to A
c
. First of all we show that the vertex of G
A
corresponding to C is a separating
vertex of G. To show this, let P denote C together with the set of marking lines and vertex cycles
contained in the exterior of C, and let Q denote C together with the set of marking lines and
19
vertex cycles contained in the interior of C. The sets P and Q correspond to subgraphs P and Q
respectively of G
A
. We will show the subgraphs P and Q dene a separation of G
A
.
First we show that P and Q have only one vertex in common. Since the vertex cycles do not
intersect, a vertex cycle is either C, in the interior of C, or in the exterior of C, and since the
marking lines are embedded, each marking line is contained in the interior of C or the exterior of
C. This means that there are no marking lines between a vertex cycle in the interior and a vertex
cycle in the exterior of C. Therefore, the subgraphs P and Q of G
A
can only meet at the vertex
corresponding to C.
We also need to show that P and Q are not empty graphs. To do this it is enough to show that
that the sets P and Q each contain a marking line. To see why this is, note that C meets marking
lines in A and in A
c
and, by property (2) of the lemma, each type or marking line must lie on
dierent sides of C so there are marking lines in the interior of C and the exterior of C.

Proof of the only if part of Theorem 1. Since partial duality acts disjointly on connected com-
ponents, it is enough to prove the result for connected embedded graphs.
Let G be a connected cellularly embedded graph in the sphere and let A E(G). Let P denote
the subgraph of G
A
determined by the edges in A and their incident vertices, and let Q denote the
subgraph of G
A
corresponding to the edges in A
c
and their incident vertices. We will show that
P and Q dene a 1-decomposition of G
A
into the two plane graphs. We will do this by looking
at the structures in the cycle diagram for G
A
corresponding to P and Q and to their connected
components.
First observe that P and Q clearly dene a decomposition of G
A
. We will now show that this is
a 1-decomposition.
Let v be a vertex in G
A
that is incident to edges in both P and Q. Then v corresponds to a
vertex cycle C
v
in the cycle diagram for G
A
that meets marking lines belonging to both A and A
c
.
Therefore, by Lemma 2, v is a separating vertex of G. It follows that A denes a 1-decomposition
of G
A
.
Having just shown that A denes a 1-decomposition into two graphs P and Q. It remains to
show that P and Q are plane graphs. We will show that P is plane, the fact that Q is plane
follows similarly. Let P
i
be a connected component of P. Let P
i
denote the sub-diagram of the
cycle diagram of G
A
that corresponds to the vertices and edges in P
i
. Since all edges in A must
lie on a single side of a cycle in the cycle diagram of G
A
, it follows that P
i
must consist of a set
of embedded vertex cycles which lie inside one vertex cycle together with embedded marking lines
between the vertex cycles. This set of vertex cycles and marking lines is easily seen to correspond
to a plane graph.

5. Joins and partial duals of plane graphs


In this section we will be examine 1-decompositions of plane graphs and also how dierent 1-
decompositions of the same ribbon graph are related to each other. The central construction used
in this study is the join operation of ribbon graphs. The join operation is a simple, special case of
the 1-sum operation. We will see that every 1-decomposition of a plane graph can be expressed in
terms of joins, rather than the more general 1-sums. We will also see that 1-decompositions of the
same ribbon graph can only dier by moving join-summands between the subgraphsP and Q.
5.1. Joins and join-decompositions of plane graphs. We begin with the denition of the join
of two ribbon graphs.
20
Denition 6. Let H
1
and H
2
be ribbon graphs and, for i = 1, 2, let v
i
V (H
i
), and
i
be an arc
on the boundary of v
i
such that
i
E(H
i
) = . Then the join) H
1
H
2
of H
1
and H
2
is a ribbon
graph obtained by identifying the arcs
1
and
2
.
H
1
and H
2
are called the join-summands of H
1
H
2
.
Example 5. An example of the join of two ribbon graphs is given below.
+

1

2
+
H
1
and H
2
with arcs
1
and
2
. The join H
1
H
2
.
The join operation for ribbon graphs is also known as the one-point join and the connected
sum in the literature.
We will make a few elementary observations about the join operation. Firstly, note that while
every join of ribbon graphs is a 1-sum, 1-sums need not be joins. Secondly, observe that there is a
certain amount of ambiguity in the notation H
1
H
2
. The suppresses the choice of the arcs
1
and
2
used in the formation of the join. Dierent choices of orientation of the arcs (and of course
dierent choices of position on the vertices) used in the formation of the join can result in non-
isomorphic ribbon graphs. This ambiguity in the notation, however, will cause no problems
for us here.
It is also worth emphasizing the following complication of the join of ribbon graphs that does not
arise with join of abstract graphs. If a ribbon graph G can be written as (H
1
H
2
) H
3
where H
1
,
H
2
and H
3
all meet at the same vertex of G, in general the order of the join can not be changed,
that is we may not be able to write G as (H
1
H
3
) H
2
. This is since it is possible that the join
involving H
3
identies arcs on H
2
and H
3
, rather than H
1
and H
3
. Consequently, when we use the
convention that when we write
k
i=1
R
i
, we mean (((R
1
R
2
) R
3
) R
k1
) R
k
.
5.2. Joins and join-decompositions. As mentioned above, joins are a special case of 1-sums.
We will see that every 1-sum into two plane graphs must be a join. As we will see, this means that
1-decompositions of plane graphs have a particularly simple structure.
The following result tells us that every 1-decomposition of a plane graph can be expressed in
terms of join of plane graphs.
Theorem 2. Let G be a plane ribbon graph with a 1-decomposition into two (plane) ribbon graphs
P and Q. Then
G =
k

i=1
R
i
,
where each subgraph R
i
of G is a distinct subgraph of P or of Q, and G =
k
i=1
R
i
.
Proof. We will prove the result by induction on the number of separating vertices in the 1-
decomposition.
Base case: First assume that there are no separating vertices. In this case one of the ribbon
subgraphs in the 1-decomposition is trivial and we set G = R
1
.
Inductive hypothesis: Assume that the result holds for all ribbon graphs with fewer than n sepa-
rating vertices.
Inductive step: Let v be a separating vertex. Then v meets edges in P and edges in Q. Let
s = (e
1
, . . . , e
p
) denote the cyclic order of the edges of G that are incident to v (with respect to an
arbitrary orientation of v). Since G has a 1-decomposition, this sequence of edges must contain a
subsequence s

= (e
q
, . . . , e
r
) with the property that all of the edges in s

belong to P, and that


21
e
q1
and e
r+1
belong to Q. (The indices are taken modulo p.) Cut the vertex v into two vertices
called v (again) and v

in such a way that v

incident to the edges e


q
, . . . , e
r
, and v is incident to
the remaining edges e
r+1
, . . . , e
q1
. Since G is plane, v and v

lie in dierent connected components


of the graph that has been created by the cutting the vertex. Let H
1
be the component containing
v

and H be the component containing v. We have G = H


1
H. Repeat this process until v is
only incident to edges in Q. Let H
1
, . . . , H
s
be the components created by this process. We have
G = H
1
H
s
. Then by the inductive hypothesis, H
j
=

j
i=1
R
i
where the R
i
are subgraphs of G
belonging either of P or of Q. Finally, G = H
1
H
s
= (

1
i=1
R
i
) (
s
i=1
R
i
), and the result
follows by reindexing the join-summands.
If a ribbon graph G has an expression of the form G =
k
i=1
R
i
, we will say that G admits a
join-decomposition. The expression
k
i=1
R
i
being the join-decomposition.
Example 6. This example provides an illustration of a join-decomposition. The original ribbon
graph is shown on the left and a join-decomposition for the ribbon graph is shown on the right.
The arrows indicate the positions of the joins.
The following corollary of Lemma 2 provides some useful additional structure of the join-
decompositions of a ribbon graph G that admits a 1-decomposition into two plane graphs.
Corollary 6. Let G is a connected plane graph that admits a 1-decomposition into subgraphs P
and Q. The G admits a join-decomposition of the form
G =
h

i=0

k
i

j=0
R
i,j

,
where
(1) if R
i,j
is a subgraph of P (respectively Q) , then R
i+1,k
is a subgraph of Q (respectively P),
for 0 i < h.
(2) For each 1 l h, R
l,j
is joined to
l1
i=0
{
k
i
j=0
R
i,j
) by identifying an arc on R
l,j
with an
arc on R
(l1),k
, for some k.
Proof. By Lemma 2, we have G =
k
i=1
R
i
, where each subgraph R
i
of G is a distinct subgraph of
P or of Q, and G =
k
i=1
R
i
. All joins will be formed with respect to the set of identifying arcs used
in this expression.
Set H = R
1
, and S = R
2
, . . . , R
k
. Without loss of generality, assume that R
1
belongs to P. If
any ribbon graph in S that belongs to P can be joined to H, do the join, denoting the resulting
ribbon graph also by H, and delete the ribbon graph from S. Continue to do this for as long as
possible. This gives the expression H =
0
i=0
{
k
i
j=0
R
i,j
).
Suppose now that H =
l1
i=0
{
k
i
j=0
R
i,j
), and that R
(l1),j
belong to P (respectively Q). If any
ribbon graph in S belongs to P (respectively Q) can be joined to H, do the join, denoting the
resulting ribbon graph also by H, and delete the ribbon graph from S. Continue to do this for as
long as possible. Doing so gives H =
l
i=0
{
k
i
j=0
R
i,j
).
Continue this process until S is empty. The resulting expression for H is the expression of joins
required by the theorem.
22
5.3. Relating 1-decompositions of G. It is obvious that 1-decompositions into two plane graphs
are not unique. However, it turns out that any two 1-decompositions of a ribbon graph into two
plane graphs are related in a very simple way. Roughly speaking, the only choices that one can
make in the construction of a 1-decompositions into two plane graphs is whether to place a join
summand in P or Q. In this subsection we will make this statement precise and describe the
relation between dierent 1-decompositions into two plane graphs that a ribbon graph G can have.
Denition 7. A ribbon graph is said to be prime if it can not be expressed as the join of two
non-trivial ribbon graphs.
As an illustration of this denition, the second and third ribbon graphs named G in Example 2
are prime, while the rst and fourth ribbon graphs named G in Example 2 are not. Also each of
the join-summands in the join-decomposition shown in Example 6 is prime.
The following result is obvious and its proof is therefore omitted.
Proposition 6. Every ribbon graph admits a factorization into unique prime ribbon subgraphs,
that is, for every ribbon graph G, we can write
G = _
k

i=1
R
i
_,
where each R
i
is prime. Moreover, any other expression of G as joins of prime join-summands can
only dier from the above expression by the order of the join-summands in the expression.
The following result tells us that prime ribbon graphs admit only trivial 1-decompositions into
two plane graphs.
Lemma 3. Let G be a prime, ribbon graph. Then G admits at most one 1-decomposition into two
plane graphs.
Proof. Suppose that G admits at most one 1-decomposition into two plane graphs. We will show
that at each vertex v on which the 1-decomposition acts, there is only one choice of decomposition.
It then follows that the 1-decomposition into two plane graphs is unique.
Let v be a vertex of G which is incident to edges both in P and Q. Arbitrarily choose a cyclic
order of the half-edges incident to v. Partition these half edges into sets S
1
, . . . S
k
according to
the equivalence relation that two half-edges e and e

are in S
i
if and only if there is a path in G
connecting e and e

that does not pass through the vertex v. During this proof will call the sets S
i
blocks.
We say that two blocks S
i
and S
j
interlace each other if there are half-edges e, e

S
i
and f, f

S
j
such that we meet the edges in the order e, f, e

, f

when travelling round the vertex v.


Observe that
(1) every block S
i
interlaces at least one other set S
j
, since G is prime. (If not S
i
is a join
factor.)
(2) If S is a set of blocks and

S is the complementary set of blocks, then a block in S interlaces
with a block in

S. (Otherwise S and

S dene a join.)
(3) In the 1-decomposition, all of the half-edges in a block must belong to one of P or Q. (Since
P and Q dene a 1-decomposition into two graphs.)
(4) The half-edges in interlacing blocks must belong to dierent sets P and Q. (Since the
1-decomposition is into plane graphs.)
Now we will show that there is a unique partition of the half-edges incident to v into the set of
those belong into P and the set of those belonging to Q (up to switching the names P and Q). We
colour all of the half-edges as follows. Without loss of generality assume that the half-edges in S
1
23
belong to P. Set S = S
1
. Now for S
i
]i nS, S
i
interlaces a block S
j
in S. If the half-edges in S
j
are in P (respectively Q), then the half-edges in S
i
must be in Q (respectively P). Add S
i
to S.
Continue until all of the blocks are in S. In doing this we have seen that every edge in a block
has a unique assignment to P or to Q, as required.
We will now dene an operation on a 1-decomposition that will allow us to relate all of the
1-decompositions into two plane graphs that are admitted by a graph G.
Denition 8. Let G be a ribbon graph equipped with a 1-decomposition into two subgraphs P
and Q. In addition, let H be a join-summand of G. By switching the parity of H we mean that we
alter the 1-decomposition by switching the subgraph, P or Q, that each edge in H belongs to (and
switching the appropriate vertices).
Example 7. The following 1-decompositions are related by switching the parity of summands.
Theorem 3. Let G be a ribbon graph that admits a 1-decomposition into two plane graphs P and Q,
and admitting a second 1-decomposition into two plane graphs P

and Q

. Then the 1-decomposition


into P

and Q

can be obtained from the 1-decomposition into P and Q by switching the parity of
prime join-summands.
Proof. Let G be a ribbon graph that admits two 1-decompositions into two plane graphs P and
Q, and P

and Q

. By Proposition 6, G admits a unique prime factorization: G = {


k
i=1
R
i
). The
two 1-decompositions each induce a partition of the edges in each prime join-summand R
i
. By
Lemma 3, the two induced partition in each R
i
must be equal or related by switching the parity of
the join-summand. The result then follows.
5.4. Joins and partial duality. In this section we will see that partial duality preserves the join
structure of a ribbon graph. We go on to use this fact, in conjunction with Theorem 1, to deduce
a relation between all of the plane partial duals of a given ribbon graph. We will use this relation
between plane partial duals in the following section to relate all link diagrams that are presented
by the same ribbon graphs.
Suppose G is a ribbon graph that can be written as a join G = H
1
H
2
. This, and the notation
that will follow, is illustrated schematically in the gure below on the left. Also let A E(G).
H
1
H
2
a b
c
d

H
1
H
2
a b
c
d

Consider what happens in the formation of the partial dual G


A
. Regardless of the choice of A,
there will be a boundary component C of the ribbon subgraph (V (G), A) that contains the arcs ab
and cd as shown in the gure above on the right. Moreover, when we travel around this boundary
component we will meet the points a, b, c and d in the order (a, b, c, d) or (c, d, b, a). Now notice
24
that since G = H
1
H
2
, all marking arrows corresponding to edges in H
1
will lie on the arc da of C,
and all marking arrows corresponding to edges in H
2
will lie on the arc bc of C. Thus if G is split
into H
1
and H
2
by cutting the vertex v through the line as shown in the left-hand gure above,
then G
A
can be split into H
AE(H
1
)
1
and H
AE(H
2
)
2
by cutting the vertex in G
A
corresponding to
C ,through the line . Thus G
A
= (H
1
H
2
)
A
= H
AE(H
1
)
1
H
AE(H
2
)
2
and the join acts naturally
with respect to partial duality.
The conclusion of this discussion is summarized by the following lemma.
Lemma 4. Suppose G be a ribbon graph that can be expressed as a join, G = H
1
H
2
, and A E(G).
Then
G
A
= (H
1
H
2
)
A
= H
A

1
H
A

2
,
where A

= AE(H
1
), A

= AE(H
2
), and the joins act naturally with respect to partial duality.
We will now go on to dene a move that will relate all of the plane partial duals of a ribbon
graph. We will see in the next section that this move is particularly natural when considering the
ribbon graphs of link diagrams.
Let G be a ribbon graph such that G = H
1
H
2
. We will say that the ribbon graph G
E(H
2
)
=
H
1
H
E(H
2
)
2
= H
1
H

2
is obtained from G by taking the dual of a join-summand. This corresponding
move on the set of ribbon graphs is called the dual of a join-summand move. Furthermore, we dene
an equivalence relation on the set of ribbon graphs by setting G H if and only if there is a
sequence of dual of a join-summand moves taking G to H.
Lemma 5. Let G be a ribbon graph with a join-decomposition into G =
k
i=1
R
i
. Then G

k
i=l
E(R
i
)
=
{
k
i=1
R
i
)

k
i=l
E(R
i
)
can be obtained from G by a sequence of dual of a join-summand moves.
Proof. Let H
1
, . . . , H
p
be the connected components of G {
l1
i=1
R
i
). The graph G can then be
written as
_
l1

i=1
R
i
_ H
1
H
p
,
where each join involving an H
i
is formed by identifying an arc on H
i
with an arc on {
l1
i=1
R
i
).
Then
G

k
i=l
E(R
i
)
= _
k

i=1
R
i
_

k
i=l
E(R
i
)
= __
l1

i=1
R
i
_ H
1
H
p
_

p
i=1
E(H
i
)
= _
l1

i=1
R
i
_ H

1
H

p
,
where the third equality follows by Lemma 4. From this identity it follows that G

k
i=l
E(R
i
)
can be
obtained by dual of a join-summand moves which act on H
1
, . . . , H
p
.
Theorem 4. Let G and H be plane graphs. Then G and H are partial duals if and only if G H.
Proof. If G H then G and H are partial dual by the denition of .
To prove the converse we need to show that any partial dual G
A
of G can be obtained from G
by dual of a join-summand moves.
Let A E(G). Then by Theorem 1, A denes a 1-decomposition into two plane graphs P and
Q. By Corollary 6 we can then write
G =
h

i=0

k
i

j=0
R
i,j

,
such that if R
i,j
is a subgraph of P (respectively Q) , then R
i+1,k
is a subgraph of Q (respectively
P), where 0 i < h. We also have
A =
i odd

j
E(R
i,j
) or A =
i even

j
E(R
i,j
).
25
Assume that A =
i odd

j
E(R
i,j
). Then
(4) G
A
=

i=0

k
i

j=0
R
i,j

i odd j
E(R
i,j
)
=

i=0

k
i

j=0
R
i,j

i2 j
E(R
i,j
)

i3 j
E(R
i,j
)

i=h j
E(R
i,j
)
where the second equality follows by the third item of Proposition 2. Observe now that the partial
dual {
h
i=0
{
k
i
j=0
R
i,j
))
i2 j
E(R
i,j
)
can be obtained a sequence of dual of a join-summand moves
by Lemma 5, and the partial dual has a join-decomposition by Lemma 4. Then it follows that

i=0

k
i

j=0
R
i,j

i2 j
E(R
i,j
)

i3 j
E(R
i,j
)
can be obtained a sequence of dual-summand moves and has a join-decomposition. Continuing in
this way, we see that G
A
can be obtained from G by a sequence of dual of a join-summand moves.
The case when A =
i even

j
E(R
i,j
) follows similarly.
6. Link diagrams with the same graph
In this section we answer Question Q3 which asked how link diagrams that are presented by
the same ribbon graphs are related to each other. Recall that this question was motivated by
considering that fact that a Tait graph presents a unique link diagram (Property T3). Unlike Tait
graphs, in general a ribbon graph can present more that one distinct link diagram, however it turns
out that all of the link diagrams that are presented by the same ribbon graph are related to each
other in an extremely simple way. One particular consequence of this is that all of the link diagrams
presented by a given ribbon graph are diagrams of isotopic links.
Recall that we consider all link diagrams up to planar isotopy. Note that the construction of
ribbon graphs of a link diagram and the construction of link diagrams from plane graphs are both
well dened up to planar isotopy.
In Section 5 we saw the importance of the join operation on ribbon graphs when considering
partial duals of plane graphs. The operation on link diagrams corresponding to a join is a connected
sum.
Let D
1
S
2
and D
2
S
2
be link diagrams. The connected sum D
1
#D
2
S
2
of D
1
and D
2
is
the link diagram formed by, for i = 1, 2, choosing a disc D
i
on S
2
that intersects D
i
in an arc
i
,
deleting the interior or each D
i
, and identifying the boundaries of S
2
D
1
and S
2
D
2
in such a
way that each end point of
1
is identied with a distinct endpoint of
2
. This process is illustrated
in the following gure.
a
b
c
a
b
c
D(H

2
)
D
1
D
2
a
b
c
a
b
c
D(H

2
)
D
1
D
2
D
1
and D
2
D
1
#D
2
The following well-known (and obvious) result describes the connection between joins and con-
nected sums. Its proof is omitted.
26
Lemma 6. Let G be a plane graph such that G = H
1
H
2
, then D(H
1
H
2
) = D(H
1
)#D(H
2
).
Moreover, there is a natural correspondence between the arcs on H
1
and H
2
used to form the join,
and the arcs on D(H
1
) and D(H
2
) used to form the connected sum.
We will also need to make use of the following well-known result.
Lemma 7. Let G be a signed plane ribbon graphs. Then D(G) = D(G

)
Proof. This follows since G and G

are the two Tait graphs (formed with respect to the two possible
checkerboard colourings) of D(G) and D(G

). (Remembering that taking the dual changes the


sign of an edge.)
We will see that the following simple move on link diagrams will relate all link diagrams that are
represented by the same ribbon graph.
Denition 9. Let D
1
and D
2
be link diagrams. Then we say that D
1
and D
2
are related by a
summand ip if and only if D
2
can be obtained from D
1
by the following process: orient S
2
and
choose an disc D in S
2
that intersects D
1
transversally in exactly two points a and b. Cut out D
and glue it back in in such a way that the orientations of D and S
2
D disagree and the points
a on the boundaries of D and S
2
D are identied, and the points b on the boundaries of D and
S
2
D are identied.
We will say that two link diagrams D
1
and D
2
are related by summand-ips, written D
1
D
2
,
if and only if there is a sequence of summand-ips taking D
1
to D
2
The summand-ip move is illustrated in the following diagram.
a
b
c
a
b
c
D(H

2
)
D D

a
b
c
a
b
c
D(H

2
)
D D

a
b
c
a
b
c
D(H

2
)
D D

D
1
= D#D

cut, ip and glue D


2
The main result of this section, which describes how link diagrams that are presented by the
same ribbon graphs relate to each other, will follow from the following lemma.
Lemma 8. Let G and G

be signed plane graphs. Then D(G) D(G

) if and only if G G

.
Proof. First observe that to prove the lemma it is enough to show that G and G

are related by
a single dual of a join-summand move if and only if D(G) and D(G

) are related by a single


summand-ip. This is what we will show. To show this we begin by examining how the embedded
graphs G and G

are related to each other.


Assume that G and G

are related by a single dual of a join-summand move. Then we can write


G = H
1
H
2
and G

= H
1
H

2
= (H
1
H
2
)
E(H
2
)
. We can form the partial dual (H
1
H
2
)
E(H
2
)
in
the following way: supposing H
1
H
2
= v, then
(1) detach E(H
1
) (V (H
1
) v) from the vertex v by cutting along the intersections of H
1
and v. Record the position of the edges by using coloured marking arrows in such a way
that H
1
H
2
can be recovered by identifying the arrows on H
2
and E(H
1
) (V (H
1
) v)
of the same colour.
(2) Form the dual H

2
of H
2
retaining the coloured arrows on the boundary.
(3) Attach E(H
1
) (V (H
1
) v) to H

2
by identifying the arrows of the same colour. The
resulting ribbon graph is (H
1
H
2
)
E(H
2
)
.
27
This process is illustrated in the following gure:
H
1
H
2
H
1
H
2
a
b
c
a
b
c
H
1
a
b
c
a
b
c
H

2
H
1 H

2
.
Now G = H
1
H
2
is a plane graph so it admits a unique embedding in the sphere S
2
. We
consider this construction of the partial dual (H
1
H
2
)
E(H
2
)
acting on the embedded ribbon graph
H
1
H
2
S
2
. Start o with an embedding of H
1
H
2
in S
2
where the vertex v forms the Southern
hemisphere. Detaching E(H
1
) (V (H
1
) v) gives an embedding of H
2
in S
2
with marking arrows
recording how H
1
was attached. Since v H
2
S
2
is the Southern Hemisphere, the dual H

S
2
is
embedded in the Northern hemisphere with the marking arrows sitting on the equator. Finally, to
attach and embed H
1
(in order to obtain an embedding of H
1
H

2
= (H
1
H
2
)
E(H
2
)
in S
2
) we ip
over H
1
and embed it in the Southern hemisphere. The resulting embedding of (H
1
H
2
)
E(H
2
)
is obtained from the embedding of H
1
H
2
by a single dual of a join-summand move acting in H
1
.
The argument is illustrated in the following gure.
v
H
1
a
b
c
a
b
c
H
2
v
H
1
a b
c
a
b
c
H
2
H
1
a
c
b
c
v
b a
H

2
H
1
c
c
v
H

2
.
Now since the embeddings of G = H
1
H
2
and G

= H
1
H

2
in S
2
are unique (as they are
obtained by lling in the punctures of the ribbon graph), it follows that the embeddings of G and
G

are related as in the above gures. The lemma then follows by considering the corresponding
link diagrams D(G) and D(G

) as illustrated:
v
H
1
a
b
c
a
b
c
H
2
dual of a join-summand
H
1
c
c
v
H

2
D
(
H
1

H
2
)
T
(
D
(
H
1
)
#
D
(
H
2
)
)
D
(
H
1

H
2
)
T
(
D
(
H
1
)
#
D
(
H
2
)
)
a
b
c
a
b
c
D(H
1
) D(H
2
)
D(H

2
)
ipping a summand
c
c
v
D(H
1
)
D(H
2
)
D(H

2
)
28
Since the link diagrams D(H

2
) and D(H
2
) are equal by Lemma 7, it is clear from the gure that
G and G

are related by a single dual of a join-summand move if and only if D(G) and D(G

) are
related by a single summand-ip. This completes the proof of the lemma.
Remark 3. It is worthwhile noting that Lemma 8 does not say that the medial graphs of G and G

are equal. (See [16] for a discussion on the relation between medial graphs and partial duals.) To
see why this is, notice that in the proof of Lemma 8 the interior and the exterior of the vertex v,
where the join acts, is switched. This switching may add half-twists the ribbons. Consequently,
twists may be added to the medial graphs. For link diagrams this switching is not a problem
since links are one dimensional. In particular, this means that the lemma does not contradict the
well known result that the medial graphs of G and H are equivalent if and only if H = G or H = G

.
The following theorem is the main result of this section. It describes how link diagrams arising
from the same ribbon graph are related to each other. Consequently, the theorem provides an
answer to our nal motivational question Q3 completing the exploration of the ribbon graphs of a
link diagram presented in this paper.
Theorem 5. Let G be a signed ribbon graph. Then D, D

D(G) if and only if D D

.
Proof. By Equation 1 and Proposition 2, D, D

D(G) if and only if D = D(H) and D

= D(H
A
),
where H is a partial dual of G, and H and H
A
are both plane graphs. By Theorem 4, this happens
if and only if H H
A
. Finally, by Lemma 8, H H
A
if and only if D = D(H) D(H
A
) = D

.
The following corollary is a straight forward consequence of Theorem 5.
Corollary 7. Let D, D

D(G). Then the links corresponding to D and D

are isotopic.
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