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J Theor Biol. 2004 Jul 7;229(1):19-30.

Can extinction rates be estimated without fossils?

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Laboratoire de Paléontologie, Paléobiologie & Phylogénie, Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, Université Montpellier II, F-34095 Montpellier Cédex 05, France.


There is considerable interest in the possibility of using molecular phylogenies to estimate extinction rates. The present study aims at assessing the statistical performance of the birth-death model fitting approach to estimate speciation and extinction rates by comparison to the approach considering fossil data. A simulation-based approach was used. The diversification of a large number of lineages was simulated under a wide range of speciation and extinction rate values. The estimators obtained with fossils performed better than those without fossils. In the absence of fossils (e.g. with a molecular phylogeny), the speciation rate was correctly estimated in a wide range of situations; the bias of the corresponding estimator was close to zero for the largest trees. However, this estimator was substantially biased when the simulated extinction rate was high. On the other hand the estimator of extinction rate was biased in a wide range of situations. Surprisingly, this bias was lesser with medium-sized trees. Some recommendations for interpreting results from a diversification analysis are given.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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