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Phylogenetic non-independence in rates of trait evolution

Sakamoto, M. and Venditti, C. (2018) Phylogenetic non-independence in rates of trait evolution. Biology Letters, 14 (10). 20180502. ISSN 1744-957X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0502


Statistical non-independence of species’ biological traits is recognized in most traits under selection. Yet, whether or not the evolutionary rates of such biological traits are statistically non-independent remains to be tested. Here we test the hypothesis that phenotypic evolutionary rates are non-independent, i.e. contain phylogenetic signal, using empirical rates of evolution in three separate traits: body mass in mammals; beak shape in birds; and bite force in amniotes. Specifically, we test whether rates are non-independent throughout the evolutionary history of each tree. We find evidence for phylogenetic signal in evolutionary rates in all three case studies. While phylogenetic signal diminishes deeper in time, this is reflective of statistical power owing to small sample and effect sizes. When effect size is large, e.g., owing to the presence of fossil tips, we detect high phylogenetic signals even in deeper time slices. Thus, we recommend that rates be treated as being non-independent throughout the evolutionary history of the group of organisms under study, and any summaries or analyses of rates through time – including associations of rates with traits – need account for the undesired effects of shared ancestry.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:79674
Uncontrolled Keywords:evolutionary rates; trait evolution; phylogeny; phylogenetic comparative methods; phylogenetic signal
Publisher:The Royal Society


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