Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: No substitute for real data: a cautionary note on the use of phylogenies from birth-death polytomy resolvers for downstream comparative analyses

Citation

Rabosky, Daniel L. (2015), Data from: No substitute for real data: a cautionary note on the use of phylogenies from birth-death polytomy resolvers for downstream comparative analyses, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7b2s3

Abstract

The statistical estimation of phylogenies is always associated with uncertainty, and accommodating this uncertainty is an important component of modern phylogenetic comparative analysis. The birth-death polytomy resolver is a method of accounting for phylogenetic uncertainty that places missing (unsampled) taxa onto phylogenetic trees, using taxonomic information alone. Recent studies of birds and mammals have used this approach to generate pseudo-posterior distributions of phylogenetic trees that are complete at the species level, even in the absence of genetic data for many species. Many researchers have used these distributions of phylogenies for downstream evolutionary analyses that involve inferences on phenotypic evolution, geography, and community assembly. I demonstrate that the use of phylogenies constructed in this fashion is inappropriate for many questions involving traits. Because species are placed on trees at random with respect to trait values, the birth-death polytomy resolver breaks down natural patterns of trait phylogenetic structure. Inferences based on these trees are predictably and often drastically biased in a direction that depends on the underlying (true) pattern of phylogenetic structure in traits. I illustrate the severity of the phenomenon for both continuous and discrete traits using examples from a global bird phylogeny.

Usage Notes