Ancestral character estimation under the threshold model from quantitative genetics

L.J. Revell

    Research output: Contribution to journalResearch Articlepeer-review

    100 Scopus citations


    Evolutionary biology is a study of life's history on Earth. In researching this history, biologists are often interested in attempting to reconstruct phenotypes for the long extinct ancestors of living species. Various methods have been developed to do this on a phylogeny from the data for extant taxa. In the present article, I introduce a new approach for ancestral character estimation for discretely valued traits. This approach is based on the threshold model from evolutionary quantitative genetics. Under the threshold model, the value exhibited by an individual or species for a discrete character is determined by an underlying, unobserved continuous trait called "liability." In this new method for ancestral state reconstruction, I use Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) to sample the liabilities of ancestral and tip species, and the relative positions of two or more thresholds, from their joint posterior probability distribution. Using data simulated under the model, I find that the method has very good performance in ancestral character estimation. Use of the threshold model for ancestral state reconstruction relies on a priori specification of the order of the discrete character states along the liability axis. I test the use of a Bayesian MCMC information theoretic criterion based approach to choose among different hypothesized orderings for the discrete character. Finally, I apply the method to the evolution of feeding mode in centrarchid fishes. © 2013 The Society for the Study of Evolution.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)743-759
    Number of pages17
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Oct 13 2013


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