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Is horizontal transmission really a problem for phylogenetic comparative methods? A simulation study using continuous cultural traits

Currie, TE; Greenhill, SJ; Mace, R; (2010) Is horizontal transmission really a problem for phylogenetic comparative methods? A simulation study using continuous cultural traits. PHILOS T R SOC B , 365 (1559) 3903 - 3912. 10.1098/rstb.2010.0014.

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Abstract

Phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs) provide a potentially powerful toolkit for testing hypotheses about cultural evolution. Here, we build on previous simulation work to assess the effect horizontal transmission between cultures has on the ability of both phylogenetic and non-phylogenetic methods to make inferences about trait evolution. We found that the mode of horizontal transmission of traits has important consequences for both methods. Where traits were horizontally transmitted separately, PCMs accurately reported when trait evolution was not correlated even at the highest levels of horizontal transmission. By contrast, linear regression analyses often incorrectly concluded that traits were correlated. Where simulated trait evolution was not correlated and traits were horizontally transmitted as a pair, both methods inferred increased levels of positive correlation with increasing horizontal transmission. Where simulated trait evolution was correlated, increasing rates of separate horizontal transmission led to decreasing levels of inferred correlation for both methods, but increasing rates of paired horizontal transmission did not. Furthermore, the PCM was also able to make accurate inferences about the ancestral state of traits. These results suggest that under certain conditions, PCMs can be robust to the effects of horizontal transmission. We discuss ways that future work can investigate the mode and tempo of horizontal transmission of cultural traits.

Type:Article
Title:Is horizontal transmission really a problem for phylogenetic comparative methods? A simulation study using continuous cultural traits
DOI:10.1098/rstb.2010.0014
Keywords:horizontal transmission, phylogenetic comparative methods, cultural evolution, cultural phylogenetics, Galton's problem, ancestral state, EVOLUTION, ANTHROPOLOGY, MECHANISMS, AFRICA
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Anthropology

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