A comparative study in ancestral range reconstruction methods: retracing the uncertain histories of insular lineages

Systematic Biology
John R ClarkEric H Roalson


Island systems have long been useful models for understanding lineage diversification in a geographic context, especially pertaining to the importance of dispersal in the origin of new clades. Here we use a well-resolved phylogeny of the flowering plant genus Cyrtandra (Gesneriaceae) from the Pacific Islands to compare four methods of inferring ancestral geographic ranges in islands: two developed for character-state reconstruction that allow only single-island ranges and do not explicitly associate speciation with range evolution (Fitch parsimony [FP; parsimony-based] and stochastic mapping [SM; likelihood-based]) and two methods developed specifically for ancestral range reconstruction, in which widespread ranges (spanning islands) are integral to inferences about speciation scenarios (dispersal-vicariance analysis [DIVA; parsimony-based] and dispersal-extinction-cladogenesis [DEC; likelihood-based]). The methods yield conflicting results, which we interpret in light of their respective assumptions. FP exhibits the least power to unequivocally reconstruct ranges, likely due to a combination of having flat (uninformative) transition costs and not using branch length information. SM reconstructions generally agree with a prior ...Continue Reading


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