An Improved Approximate-Bayesian Model-choice Method for Estimating Shared Evolutionary History

An Improved Approximate-Bayesian Model-choice Method for Estimating Shared Evolutionary History

Jamie R. Oaks
(Submitted on 25 Feb 2014)

To understand the processes that generate biodiversity, it is important to account for large-scale processes that affect the evolutionary history of groups of co-distributed populations of organisms. Such events predict temporally clustered divergences times, a pattern that can be estimated using genetic data from co-distributed species. I introduce a new approximate-Bayesian method for comparative phylogeographical model-choice that estimates the temporal distribution of divergences across taxa from multi-locus DNA sequence data. The model is an extension of that implemented in msBayes. By reparameterizing the model, introducing more flexible priors on demographic and divergence-time parameters, and implementing a non-parametric Dirichlet-process prior over divergence models, I improved the robustness, accuracy, and power of the method for estimating shared evolutionary history across taxa. The results demonstrate the improved performance of the new method is due to (1) more appropriate priors on divergence-time and demographic parameters that avoid prohibitively small marginal likelihoods for models with more divergence events, and (2) the Dirichlet-process providing a flexible prior on divergence histories that does not strongly disfavor models with intermediate numbers of divergence events. The new method yields more robust estimates of posterior uncertainty, and thus greatly reduces the tendency of the model to incorrectly estimate biogeographically interesting models with strong support.


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