Conducting phylogenetic comparative studies when the phylogeny is not known

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100 Scopus citations


A method is proposed to conduct phylogenetic analyses of comparative or interspecific data when the true phylogeny is not known. Standard models of speciation and/or extinction or other methods are used to generate a sample from the set of all possible phylogenies for the measured species. The comparative data are then analyzed on each of the possible trees to obtain a distribution of possible evolutionary statistics for these data. The mean of this distribution is proposed as a reasonable estimate of the true evolutionary statistic of interest. Ways of obtaining confidence intervals and of developing hypothesis tests for this mean statistic are also proposed. The method can be used with any comparative method or phylogenetic analysis technique when phylogenetic relationships among species are not known or when branch lengths for a phylogeny in units of expected character change (as required by most methods) are not available. Computer programs to conduct the analyses are available on request.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-22
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 1996



  • Comparative method
  • Computer simulation
  • Phylogeny
  • Speciation
  • Statistics
  • Systematics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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