PMID: 11108577Dec 7, 2000

Taxon sampling, correlated evolution, and independent contrasts

Evolution; International Journal of Organic Evolution
David D Ackerly

Abstract

Independent contrasts are widely used to incorporate phylogenetic information into studies of continuous traits, particularly analyses of evolutionary trait correlations, but the effects of taxon sampling on these analyses have received little attention. In this paper, simulations were used to investigate the effects of taxon sampling patterns and alternative branch length assignments on the statistical performance of correlation coefficients and sign tests; "full-tree" analyses based on contrasts at all nodes and "paired-comparisons" based only on contrasts of terminal taxon pairs were also compared. The simulations showed that random samples, with respect to the traits under consideration, provide statistically robust estimates of trait correlations. However, exact significance tests are highly dependent on appropriate branch length information; equal branch lengths maintain lower Type I error than alternative topological approaches, and adjusted critical values of the independent contrast correlation coefficient are provided for use with equal branch lengths. Nonrandom samples, with respect to univariate or bivariate trait distributions, introduce discrepancies between interspecific and phylogenetically structured analyses a...Continue Reading

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