, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 351-367

Phylogenetic comparative methods and the geographic range size – body size relationship in new world terrestrial carnivora

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Abstract

Most recent papers avoid describing macroecological relationships and interpreting then without a previous control of non-independence in data caused by phylogenetic patterns in data. In this paper, we analyzed the geographic range size – body size relationship for 70 species of New World terrestrial Carnivora (‘fissipeds’) using various phylogenetic comparative methods and simulation procedures to assess their statistical performance. Autocorrelation analyses suggested a strong phylogenetic pattern for body size, but not for geographic range size. The correlation between the two traits was estimated using standard Pearson correlation across species (TIPS) and four different comparative methods: Felsenstein's independent contrasts (PIC), autoregressive method (ARM), phylogenetic eigenvector regression (PVR) and phylogenetic generalized least-squares (PGLS). The correlation between the two variables was significant for all methods, except PIC, in such a way that ecological mechanisms (i.e., minimum viable population or environmental heterogeneity- physiological homeostasis), could be valid explanations for the relationship. Simulations using different O-U processes for each trait were run in order to estimate true Type I errors of each method. Type I errors at 5% were similar for all phylogenetic methods (always lower than 8%), but equal to 13.1% for TIPS. PIC usually performs better than all other methods under Brownian motion evolution, but not in this case using a more complex combination of evolutionary models. So, recent claims that using independent contrasts in ecological research can be too conservative are correct but, on the other hand, using simple across-species correlation is too liberal even under the more complex evolutionary models exhibited by the traits analyzed here.