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Simulating and detecting autocorrelation of molecular evolutionary rates among lineages

Simulating and detecting autocorrelation of molecular evolutionary rates among lineages

Molecular Ecology Resources 15(4): 688-696

Evolutionary timescales can be estimated from genetic data using phylogenetic methods based on the molecular clock. To account for molecular rate variation among lineages, a number of relaxed-clock models have been developed. Some of these models assume that rates vary among lineages in an autocorrelated manner, so that closely related species share similar rates. In contrast, uncorrelated relaxed clocks allow all of the branch-specific rates to be drawn from a single distribution, without assuming any correlation between rates along neighbouring branches. There is uncertainty about which of these two classes of relaxed-clock models are more appropriate for biological data. We present an R package, NELSI, that allows the evolution of DNA sequences to be simulated according to a range of clock models. Using data generated by this package, we assessed the ability of two Bayesian phylogenetic methods to distinguish among different relaxed-clock models and to quantify rate variation among lineages. The results of our analyses show that rate autocorrelation is typically difficult to detect, even when there is complete taxon sampling. This provides a potential explanation for past failures to detect rate autocorrelation in a range of data sets.

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Accession: 055783437

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 25155426

DOI: 10.1111/1755-0998.12320

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