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The Quantitative Assessment of Phylogenetic Constraints in Comparative Analyses: Sexual Dimorphism in Body Weight Among Primates

James M. Cheverud, Malcolm M. Dow and Walter Leutenegger
Evolution
Vol. 39, No. 6 (Nov., 1985), pp. 1335-1351
DOI: 10.2307/2408790
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2408790
Page Count: 17
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The Quantitative Assessment of Phylogenetic Constraints in Comparative Analyses: Sexual Dimorphism in Body Weight Among Primates
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Abstract

We have presented a formal model for the quantitative analysis of phylogenetic and specific effects on the distribution of trait values among species. Total trait values are divided into phylogenetic values, inherited from an ancestral species, and specific values, the result of independent evolution. This allows a quantitative assessment of the strength of the phylogenetic inertia, or burden, displayed by a character in a lineage, so that questions concerning the relative importance of phylogenetic constraints in evolution can be answered. The separation of phylogenetic from specific effects proposed here also allows phylogenetic factors to be explicitly included in cross-species comparative analyses of adaptation. This solves a long-standing problem in evolutionary comparative studies. Only species' specific values can provide information concerning the independent evolution of characters in a set of related species. Therefore, only correlations among specific values for traits may be used as evidence for adaptation in cross-species comparative analyses. The phylogenetic autocorrelation model was applied to a comparative analysis of the determinants of sexual dimorphism in weight among 44 primate species. In addition to sexual dimorphism in weight, mating system, habitat, diet, and size (weight itself) were included in the analysis. All of the traits, except diet, were substantially influenced by phylogenetic inertia. The comparative analysis of the determinants of sexual dimorphism in weight indicates that 50% of the variation among primate species is due to phylogeny. Size, or scaling, could account for a total of 36% of the variance, making it almost as important as phylogeny in determining the level of dimorphism displayed by a species. Habitat, mating system, and diet follow, accounting for minor amounts of variation. Thus, in attempting to explain why a particular modern primate species is very dimorphic compared to other primates, we would say first because its ancestor was more dimorphic than average, second because it is a relatively large species, and third because it is terrestrial, polygynous, and folivorous.

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