Indexed on: 01 Oct '97Published on: 01 Oct '97Published in: Evolution
Although a large body of work investigating tests of correlated evolution of two continuous characters exists, hypotheses such as character displacement are really tests of whether substantial evolutionary change has occurred on a particular branch or branches of the phylogenetic tree. In this study, we present a methodology for testing such a hypothesis using ancestral character state reconstruction and simulation. Furthermore, we suggest how to investigate the robustness of the hypothesis test by varying the reconstruction methods or simulation parameters. As a case study, we tested a hypothesis of character displacement in body size of Caribbean Anolis lizards. We compared squared-change, weighted squared-change, and linear parsimony reconstruction methods, gradual Brownian motion and speciational models of evolution, and several resolution methods for linear parsimony. We used ancestor reconstruction methods to infer the amount of body size evolution, and tested whether evolutionary change in body size was greater on branches of the phylogenetic tree in which a transition from occupying a single-species island to a two-species island occurred. Simulations were used to generate null distributions of reconstructed body size change. The hypothesis of character displacement was tested using Wilcoxon Rank-Sums. When tested against simulated null distributions, all of the reconstruction methods resulted in more significant P-values than when standard statistical tables were used. These results confirm that P-values for tests using ancestor reconstruction methods should be assessed via simulation rather than from standard statistical tables. Linear parsimony can produce an infinite number of most parsimonious reconstructions in continuous characters. We present an example of assessing the robustness of our statistical test by exploring the sample space of possible resolutions. We compare ACCTRAN and DELTRAN resolutions of ambiguous character reconstructions in linear parsimony to the most and least conservative resolutions for our particular hypothesis.