Bridging Inter- and Intraspecific Trait Evolution with a Hierarchical Bayesian Approach

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The evolution of organisms is crucially dependent on the evolution of intraspecific variation. Its interactions with selective agents in the biotic and abiotic environments underlie many processes, such as intraspecific competition, resource partitioning and, eventually, species formation. Nevertheless, comparative models of trait evolution neither allow explicit testing of hypotheses related to the evolution of intraspecific variation nor do they simultaneously estimate rates of trait evolution by accounting for both trait mean and variance. Here, we present a model of phenotypic trait evolution using a hierarchical Bayesian approach that simultaneously incorporates interspecific and intraspecific variation. We assume that species-specific trait means evolve under a simple Brownian motion process, whereas species-specific trait variances are modeled with Brownian or Ornstein-Uhlenbeck processes. After evaluating the power of the method through simulations, we examine whether life-history traits impact evolution of intraspecific variation in the Eriogonoideae (buckwheat family, Polygonaceae). Our model is readily extendible to more complex scenarios of the evolution of inter- and intraspecific variation and presents a step toward more comprehensive comparative models for macroevolutionary studies.

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