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Data from: A hierarchical Bayesian model for calibrating estimates of species divergence times

Cite this dataset

Heath, Tracy A. (2012). Data from: A hierarchical Bayesian model for calibrating estimates of species divergence times [Dataset]. Dryad.


In Bayesian divergence time estimation methods, incorporating calibrating information from the fossil record is commonly done by assigning prior densities to ancestral nodes in the tree. Calibration prior densities are typically parametric distributions offset by minimum age estimates provided by the fossil record. Specification of the parameters of calibration densities requires the user to quantify his or her prior knowledge of the age of the ancestral node relative to the age of its calibrating fossil. The values of these parameters can, potentially, result in biased estimates of node ages if they lead to overly informative or excessively vague prior distributions. Accordingly, determining parameter values that lead to adequate prior densities is not straightforward. In this study, I present a hierarchical Bayesian model for calibrating divergence time analyses with multiple fossil age constraints. This approach applies a Dirichlet process prior as a hyperprior on the parameters of calibration prior densities. Specifically, this model assumes that the rate-parameters of exponential prior distributions on calibrated nodes are distributed according to a Dirichlet process, whereby the rate-parameters are clustered into distinct parameter categories. Both simulated and biological data are analyzed to evaluate the performance of the Dirichlet process hyperprior. Compared to fixed exponential prior densities, the hierarchical Bayesian approach results in more accurate and precise estimates of internal node ages. When this hyperprior is applied using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, the ages of calibrated nodes are sampled from mixtures of exponential distributions and uncertainty in the values of calibration density parameters is taken into account.

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