1. Evolutionary Biology
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A multispecies coalescent model for quantitative traits

  1. Fábio K Mendes  Is a corresponding author
  2. Jesualdo A Fuentes-González
  3. Joshua G Schraiber
  4. Matthew W. Hahn
  1. Indiana University, United States
  2. Temple University, United States
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2018;7:e36482 doi: 10.7554/eLife.36482


We present a multispecies coalescent model for quantitative traits that allows for evolutionary inferences at micro- and macroevolutionary scales. A major advantage of this model is its ability to incorporate genealogical discordance underlying a quantitative trait. We show that discordance causes a decrease in the expected trait covariance between more closely related species relative to more distantly related species. If unaccounted for, this outcome can lead to an overestimation of a trait's evolutionary rate, to a decrease in its phylogenetic signal, and to errors when examining shifts in mean trait values. The number of loci controlling a quantitative trait appears to be irrelevant to all trends reported, and discordance also affected discrete, threshold traits. Our model and analyses point to the conditions under which different methods should fare better or worse, in addition to indicating current and future approaches that can mitigate the effects of discordance.

Data availability

Simulated data can be found at: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m2s1735

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Fábio K Mendes

    Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6204-7208
  2. Jesualdo A Fuentes-González

    Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Joshua G Schraiber

    Department of Biology, Temple University, Philadelphia, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Matthew W. Hahn

    Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5731-8808


National Science Foundation (DBI-1564611)

  • Matthew W. Hahn

National Institutes of Health (R35 GM124745)

  • Joshua G Schraiber

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Antonis Rokas, Vanderbilt University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: March 7, 2018
  2. Accepted: July 2, 2018
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 3, 2018 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: August 14, 2018 (version 2)


© 2018, Mendes et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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