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J Evol Biol. 2010 Mar;23(3):494-508. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01915.x. Epub 2010 Jan 7.

General quantitative genetic methods for comparative biology: phylogenies, taxonomies and multi-trait models for continuous and categorical characters.

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School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Although many of the statistical techniques used in comparative biology were originally developed in quantitative genetics, subsequent development of comparative techniques has progressed in relative isolation. Consequently, many of the new and planned developments in comparative analysis already have well-tested solutions in quantitative genetics. In this paper, we take three recent publications that develop phylogenetic meta-analysis, either implicitly or explicitly, and show how they can be considered as quantitative genetic models. We highlight some of the difficulties with the proposed solutions, and demonstrate that standard quantitative genetic theory and software offer solutions. We also show how results from Bayesian quantitative genetics can be used to create efficient Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithms for phylogenetic mixed models, thereby extending their generality to non-Gaussian data. Of particular utility is the development of multinomial models for analysing the evolution of discrete traits, and the development of multi-trait models in which traits can follow different distributions. Meta-analyses often include a nonrandom collection of species for which the full phylogenetic tree has only been partly resolved. Using missing data theory, we show how the presented models can be used to correct for nonrandom sampling and show how taxonomies and phylogenies can be combined to give a flexible framework with which to model dependence.

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