Stochastic mapping of morphological characters

Syst Biol. 2003 Apr;52(2):131-58. doi: 10.1080/10635150390192780.


Many questions in evolutionary biology are best addressed by comparing traits in different species. Often such studies involve mapping characters on phylogenetic trees. Mapping characters on trees allows the nature, number, and timing of the transformations to be identified. The parsimony method is the only method available for mapping morphological characters on phylogenies. Although the parsimony method often makes reasonable reconstructions of the history of a character, it has a number of limitations. These limitations include the inability to consider more than a single change along a branch on a tree and the uncoupling of evolutionary time from amount of character change. We extended a method described by Nielsen (2002, Syst. Biol. 51:729-739) to the mapping of morphological characters under continuous-time Markov models and demonstrate here the utility of the method for mapping characters on trees and for identifying character correlation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aphids / classification
  • Aphids / genetics
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Models, Genetic
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Phenotype*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Pontederiaceae / classification
  • Pontederiaceae / genetics
  • Starfish / classification
  • Starfish / genetics
  • Stochastic Processes