Phylogenetic EcologyA History, Critique, and Remodeling

Phylogenetic EcologyA History, Critique, and Remodeling

Nathan G. Swenson

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226671475

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Phylogenetic trees are hypotheses depicting the degree of relatedness between species and have, therefore, been critical pieces of information for evolutionary biologists in their research programs for decades. Phylogenies in ecology, on the other hand, have traditionally been used infrequently or all out avoided except in those instances where the researcher was forced to use one to account for non-independence in their data. Part of this avoidance was due to a lack of reliable phylogenetic information for the species being investigated. It was also partly due to ecologists having relatively little training in phylogenetics, thereby reducing their ability to make new important connections across disciplines and lines of thought. At least this was the case until approximately 15 years ago when a quick series of conceptual and methodological advances set the stage for a landslide of phylogenetically informed papers in ecology. Despite this large volume of papers regarding phylogenetic ecology, many of the key reasons and goals for integrating phylogenies into ecology have been left by the wayside. Here, I attempt to outline phylogenetic ecology as it stands today and propose a series of modifications to how ecologists use phylogenies with the goal of promoting a more meaningful synthesis of evolutionary biology and ecology via phylogenetic information.