Phylogenetic comparative analysis of life-history variation among populations of the lizard Sceloporus undulatus: An example and prognosis

Peter H. Niewiarowski, Michael J. Angilletta, Adam D. Leaché

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Over the past 15 years, phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs) have become standard in the study of life-history evolution. To date, most studies have focused on variation among species or higher taxonomic levels, generally revealing the presence of significant phylogenetic effects as well as residual variation potentially attributable to adaptive evolution. Recently, population-level phylogenetic hypotheses have become available for many species, making it possible to apply PCMs directly to the level at which experiments are typically used to test adaptive hypotheses. In this study, we present the results of PCMs applied to life-history variation among populations of the widespread and well-studied lizard Sceloporus undulatus. Using S. undulatus (which may represent four closely related species) as an example, we explore the benefits of using PCMs at the population level, as well as consider the importance of several thorny methodological problems including but not limited to nonindependence of populations, lack of sufficient variation in traits, and the typically small sample sizes dictated by the difficulty of collecting detailed demographic data. We show that phylogenetic effects on life-history variation among populations of 5. undulatus appear to be unimportant, and that several classic trade-offs expected by theory and revealed by many interspecific comparisons are absent. Our results suggest that PCMs applied to variation in life-history traits below the species level may be of limited value, but more studies like ours are needed to draw a general conclusion. Finally, we discuss several outstanding problems that face studies seeking to apply PCMs below the species level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-633
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Independent contrasts
  • Life history
  • Phrynosomatid
  • Phylogenetic comparative method
  • Sceloporus undulatus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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