Josef C Uyeda, Luke J Harmon
Our understanding of macroevolutionary patterns of adaptive evolution has greatly increased with the advent of large-scale phylogenetic comparative methods. Widely used Ornstein-Uhlenbeck (OU) models can describe an adaptive process of divergence and selection. However, inference of the dynamics of adaptive landscapes from comparative data is complicated by interpretational difficulties, lack of identifiability among parameter values and the common requirement that adaptive hypotheses must be assigned a priori. Here we develop a reversible-jump Bayesian method of fitting multi-optima OU models to phylogenetic comparative data that estimates the placement and magnitude of adaptive shifts directly from the data. We show how biologically informed hypotheses can be tested against this inferred posterior of shift locations using Bayes Factors to establish whether our a priori models adequately describe the dynamics of adaptive peak shifts. Furthermore, we show how the inclusion of informative priors can be used to restrict models to biologically realistic parameter space and test particular biological interpretations of evolutionary models. We argue that Bayesian model-fitting of OU models to comparative data provides a framework for integrating of multiple sources of biological data–such as microevolutionary estimates of selection parameters and paleontological timeseries–allowing inference of adaptive landscape dynamics with explicit, process-based biological interpretations.