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Data from: Extinction can be estimated from moderately sized molecular phylogenies


Beaulieu, Jeremy Michael; O'Meara, Brian C. (2015), Data from: Extinction can be estimated from moderately sized molecular phylogenies, Dryad, Dataset,


Hundreds of studies have been dedicated to estimating speciation and extinction from phylogenies of extant species. While it has long been known that estimates of extinction rates using trees of extant organisms are often uncertain, an influential paper by Rabosky (2010) suggested that when birth rates vary continuously across the tree estimates of the extinction fraction (i.e., extinction rate/speciation rate) will appear strongly bimodal, with a peak suggesting no extinction and a peak implying speciation and extinction rates are approaching equality. On the basis of these results, and the realistic nature of this form of rate variation, it is now generally assumed by many practitioners that extinction cannot be understood from molecular phylogenies alone. Here we reevaluated and extended the analyses of Rabosky (2010) and come to the opposite conclusion – namely, that it is possible to estimate extinction from molecular phylogenies, even with model violations due to heritable variation in diversification rate. Note that while it may be tempting to interpret our study as advocating the application of simple birth-death models, our goal here is to show how a particular model violation does not necessitate the abandonment of an entire field: use prudent caution, but do not abandon all hope.

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