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Am Nat. 2008 Jul;172(1):102-15. doi: 10.1086/588076.

Relating traits to diversification: a simple test.

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Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, United Kingdom.


We describe a simple comparative method for determining whether rates of diversification are correlated with continuous traits in species-level phylogenies. This involves comparing traits of species with net speciation rate (number of nodes linking extant species with the root divided by the root to tip evolutionary distance), using a phylogenetically corrected correlation. We use simulations to examine the power of this test. We find that the approach has acceptable power to uncover relationships between speciation and a continuous trait and is robust to background random extinction; however, the power of the approach is reduced when the rate of trait evolution is decreased. The test has low power to relate diversification to traits when extinction rate is correlated with the trait. Clearly, there are inherent limitations in using only data on extant species to infer correlates of extinction; however, this approach is potentially a powerful tool in analyzing correlates of speciation.

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