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Are phylogenies resolved at the genus level appropriate for studies on phylogenetic structure of species assemblages?


ABSTRACT: Phylogenies are essential to studies investigating the effect of evolutionary history on assembly of species in ecological communities and geographical and ecological patterns of phylogenetic structure of species assemblages. Because phylogenies well resolved at the species level are lacking for many major groups of organisms such as vascular plants, researchers often generate a species-level phylogenies using a phylogeny well resolved at the genus level as a backbone and attaching species to their respective genera in the phylogeny as polytomies or by using a megaphylogeny well resolved at the genus level as a backbone and adding additional species to the megaphylogeny as polytomies of their respective genera. However, whether the result of a study using species-level phylogenies generated in these ways is robust, compared to that based on phylogenies fully resolved at the species level, has not been assessed. Here, we use 1093 angiosperm tree assemblages (each in a 110 × 110 km quadrat) in North America as a model system to address this question, by examining six commonly used metrics of phylogenetic structure (phylogenetic diversity and phylogenetic relatedness) and six climate variables commonly used in ecology. Our results showed that (1) the scores of phylogenetic metrics derived from species-level phylogenies resolved at the genus level with species being attached to their respective genera as polytomies are very strongly or perfectly correlated to those derived from a phylogeny fully resolved at the species level (the mean of correlation coefficients is 0.973), and (2) the relationships between the scores of phylogenetic metrics and climate variables are consistent between the two sets of analyses based on the two types of phylogeny. Our study suggests that using species-level phylogenies resolved at the genus level with species being attached to their genera as polytomies is appropriate in studies exploring patterns of phylogenetic structure of species in ecological communities across geographical and ecological gradients.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC8390917 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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