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Statistical Issues and Assumptions of Phylogenetic Generalized Least Squares

  • Roger MundryEmail author

Abstract

Using phylogenetic generalized least squares (PGLS) means to fit a linear regression aiming to investigate the impact of one or several predictor variables on a single response variable while controlling for potential phylogenetic signal in the response (and, hence, non-independence of the residuals). The key difference between PGLS and standard (multiple) regression is that PGLS allows us to control for residuals being potentially non-independent due to the phylogenetic history of the taxa investigated. While the assumptions of PGLS regarding the underlying processes of evolution and the correlation of the predictor and response variables with the phylogeny have received considerable attention, much less focus has been put on the checks of model reliability and stability commonly used in case of standard general linear models. However, several of these checks could be similarly applied in the context of PGLS as well. Here, I describe how such checks of model stability and reliability could be applied in the context of a PGLS and what could be done in case they reveal potential problems. Besides treating general questions regarding the conceptual and technical validity of the model, I consider issues regarding the sample size, collinearity among the predictors, the distribution of the predictors and the residuals, model stability, and drawing inference based on P-values. Finally, I emphasize the need for reporting checks of assumptions (and their results) in publications.

Notes

Acknowledgments

First of all, I would like to thank László Zsolt Garamszegi for inviting me to write this chapter. I also thank László Zsolt Garamszegi and two anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. I equally owe thanks to Charles L. Nunn for initially leading my attention to the need for and rationale of phylogenetically corrected statistical analyses. During the three AnthroTree workshops held in Amherst, MA, U.S.A., in 2010–2012 and supported by the NSF (BCS-0923791) and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NSF grant EF-0905606) I learnt a lot about the philosophy and practical implementation of phylogenetic approaches to statistical analyses, and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend them. This article was mainly written during a stay on the wonderful island of Læsø, Denmark, and I owe warm thanks to the staff of the hotel Havnebakken for their hospitality that made my stay very enjoyable and productive at the same time.

Glossary

Case

Set of entries in the data referring to the same taxon; represented by one row in the data set and corresponds to one tip in the phylogeny.

Covariate

Quantitative predictor variable.

Dummy coding

Way of representing a factor in a linear model, by turning it into a set of ‘quantitative’ variables. One level of the factor is defined the ‘reference’ level (or reference category), and for each of the other levels a variable is created which is one if the respective case in the data set is of that level and zero otherwise. The estimate derived for a dummy coded variable reveals the degree by which the response in the coded level differs from that of the reference level.

Factor

Qualitative (or categorical) predictor variable.

General linear model

Unified approach to test the effect(s) of one or several quantitative or categorical predictors on a single quantitative response; makes the assumptions of normally and homogeneously distributed residuals; multiple regression, ANOVA, ANCOVA, and the t-tests are all just special cases of the general linear model.

Level

Particular value of a factor (for instance, the factor ‘sex’ has the levels ‘female’ and ‘male’).

Predictor (variable)

Variable for which its influence on the response variable should be investigated or controlled for; can be a factor or a covariate.

Response (variable)

Variable being in the focus of the study and for which it should be investigated how one or several predictors influence it.

Right (left) skewed distribution

Distribution with many small and few large values (a left skewed distribution shows the opposite pattern).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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