Abstract Detail


Boyko, James [1], Beaulieu, Jeremy [1].

Quantifying the limits of our knowledge in phylogenetic comparative studies.

Many debates in evolutionary biology are centered around what an ancestral species looked like or how it lived. These debates are difficult to resolve because the species we wish to learn about are extinct.  This problem is overcome by utilizing phylogenetic comparative methods, which allow biologists to infer the traits of an ancestral species with data from living species. However, the results of an ancestral reconstruction will often appear to give higher levels of certainty than are actually warranted. This uncertainty exists because information decays through time and is typically available only from present-day species (except in rare cases of fossil data). Our research quantifies how quickly information decays through time and explicitly asks how much information is available to reconstruct an ancestral phenotype. We apply this framework to a large dataset of over 85000 photosynthetic organisms, and test whether there is sufficient information to reconstruct the ancestral habitat of the first photosynthetic eukaryote.

1 - University of Arkansas, Biological Sciences, Office of Business Affairs ADMN 321, Fayetteville, USA, 72701

Primary endosymbiosis
ancestral reconstruction
information theory
comparative methods.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Abstract ID:828
Candidate for Awards:None

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