Modeling body size evolution in Felidae under alternative phylogenetic hypotheses.

Research paper by José Alexandre Felizola JA Diniz-Filho, João Carlos JC Nabout

Indexed on: 01 Jan '09Published on: 01 Jan '09Published in: Genetics and molecular biology


The use of phylogenetic comparative methods in ecological research has advanced during the last twenty years, mainly due to accurate phylogenetic reconstructions based on molecular data and computational and statistical advances. We used phylogenetic correlograms and phylogenetic eigenvector regression (PVR) to model body size evolution in 35 worldwide Felidae (Mammalia, Carnivora) species using two alternative phylogenies and published body size data. The purpose was not to contrast the phylogenetic hypotheses but to evaluate how analyses of body size evolution patterns can be affected by the phylogeny used for comparative analyses (CA). Both phylogenies produced a strong phylogenetic pattern, with closely related species having similar body sizes and the similarity decreasing with increasing distances in time. The PVR explained 65% to 67% of body size variation and all Moran's I values for the PVR residuals were non-significant, indicating that both these models explained phylogenetic structures in trait variation. Even though our results did not suggest that any phylogeny can be used for CA with the same power, or that "good" phylogenies are unnecessary for the correct interpretation of the evolutionary dynamics of ecological, biogeographical, physiological or behavioral patterns, it does suggest that developments in CA can, and indeed should, proceed without waiting for perfect and fully resolved phylogenies.