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Mapping extrinsic traits such as extinction risks or modelled bioclimatic niches on phylogenies: does it make sense at all?


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An increasing variety of extrinsic traits are used in comparative studies aimed at testing evolutionary hypotheses. After briefly reviewing the relevant literature, it appears that three different problems are implied by this trend. Some extrinsic traits are only surrogates for phenotypic traits, and should be redefined to better fit the requisites for phylogenetic analysis, such as selective regimes and extinction risks. Some others are already adequately defined and cannot be made less extrinsic, such as taxon age, geographical distribution, associates (parasites, symbionts, etc.), and bioclimatic modelled niches. Because they are not heritable, they should not be analysed by optimization onto a tree, but are better considered in sister-group comparisons or within a reconciliation procedure, as already done for areas of biogeography.

© The Willi Hennig Society 2010.