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Data from: Diversity, disparity, and evolutionary rate estimation for unresolved Yule trees

Cite this dataset

Crawford, Forrest; Suchard, Marc; Crawford, Forrest W.; Suchard, Marc A. (2013). Data from: Diversity, disparity, and evolutionary rate estimation for unresolved Yule trees [Dataset]. Dryad.


The branching structure of biological evolution confers statistical dependencies on phenotypic trait values in related organisms. For this reason, comparative macroevolutionary studies usually begin with an inferred phylogeny that describes the evolutionary relationships of the organisms of interest. The probability of the observed trait data can be computed by assuming a model for trait evolution, such as Brownian motion, over the branches of this fixed tree. However, the phylogenetic tree itself contributes statistical uncertainty to estimates of other evolutionary quantities, and many comparative evolutionary biologists regard the tree as a nuisance parameter. In this paper, we present a framework for analytically integrating over unknown phylogenetic trees in comparative evolutionary studies by assuming that the tree arises from a continuous-time Markov branching model called the Yule process. To do this, we derive a closed-form expression for the distribution of phylogenetic diversity, which is the sum of branch lengths connecting a set of taxa. We then present a generalization of phylogenetic diversity which is equivalent to the expected trait disparity in a set of taxa whose evolutionary relationships are generated by a Yule process and whose traits evolve by Brownian motion. We derive expressions for the distribution of expected trait disparity under a Yule tree. Given one or more observations of trait disparity in a clade, we perform fast likelihood-based estimation of the Brownian variance for unresolved clades. Our method does not require simulation or a fixed phylogenetic tree. We conclude with a brief example illustrating Brownian rate estimation for thirteen taxonomic families in order Carnivora, in which the phylogenetic tree for each family is unresolved.

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