Indexed on: 11 Apr '12Published on: 11 Apr '12Published in: Evolution
A number of metrics have been developed for estimating phylogenetic signal in data and to evaluate correlated evolution, inferring broad-scale evolutionary and ecological processes. Here, we proposed an approach called phylogenetic signal-representation (PSR) curve, built upon phylogenetic eigenvector regression (PVR). In PVR, selected eigenvectors extracted from a phylogenetic distance matrix are used to model interspecific variation. In the PSR curve, sequential PVR models are fitted after successively increasing the number of eigenvectors and plotting their R(2) against the accumulated eigenvalues. We used simulations to show that a linear PSR curve is expected under Brownian motion and that its shape changes under alternative evolutionary models. The PSR area, expressing deviations from Brownian motion, is strongly correlated (r= 0.873; P < 0.01) with Blomberg's K-statistics, so nonlinear PSR curves reveal if traits are evolving at a slower or higher rate than expected by Brownian motion. The PSR area is also correlated with phylogenetic half-life under an Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process, suggesting how both methods describe the shape of the relationship between interspecific variation and time since divergence among species. The PSR curve provides an elegant exploratory method to understand deviations from Brownian motion, in terms of acceleration or deceleration of evolutionary rates occurring at large or small phylogenetic distances.