Aug 2, 2016

A cautionary note on the use of Ornstein Uhlenbeck models in macroevolutionary studies

Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Natalie CooperRob P Freckleton

Abstract

Phylogenetic comparative methods are increasingly used to give new insights into the dynamics of trait evolution in deep time. For continuous traits the core of these methods is a suite of models that attempt to capture evolutionary patterns by extending the Brownian constant variance model. However, the properties of these models are often poorly understood, which can lead to the misinterpretation of results. Here we focus on one of these models - the Ornstein Uhlenbeck (OU) model. We show that the OU model is frequently incorrectly favoured over simpler models when using Likelihood ratio tests, and that many studies fitting this model use datasets that are small and prone to this problem. We also show that very small amounts of error in datasets can have profound effects on the inferences derived from OU models. Our results suggest that simulating fitted models and comparing with empirical results is critical when fitting OU and other extensions of the Brownian model. We conclude by making recommendations for best practice in fitting OU models in phylogenetic comparative analyses, and for interpreting the parameters of the OU model.

  • References33
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  • References33
  • Citations37

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Mentioned in this Paper

Study
Phylogenetic Analysis
Depth
Biological Evolution
EAF2 gene

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