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Journal Article

Comparative Methods as a Statistical Fix: The Dangers of Ignoring an Evolutionary Model

Rob P. Freckleton, Natalie Cooper and Walter Jetz
The American Naturalist
Vol. 178, No. 1 (July 2011), pp. E10-E17
DOI: 10.1086/660272
Stable URL:
Page Count: 8
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AbstractComparative methods are widely used in ecology and evolution. The most frequently used comparative methods are based on an explicit evolutionary model. However, recent approaches have been popularized that are without an evolutionary basis or an underlying null model. Here we highlight the limitations of such techniques in comparative analyses by using simulations to compare two commonly used comparative methods with and without evolutionary basis, respectively: generalized least squares (GLS) and phylogenetic eigenvector regression (PVR). We find that GLS methods are more efficient at estimating model parameters and produce lower variance in parameter estimates, lower phylogenetic signal in residuals, and lower Type I error rates than PVR methods. These results can very likely be generalized to eigenvector methods that control for space and both space and phylogeny. We highlight that GLS methods can be adapted in numerous ways and that the variance structure used in these models can be flexibly optimized to each data set.

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