Phylogenetic approaches in comparative physiology

Theodore Garland, Albert F. Bennett, Enrico L. Rezende

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

506 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past two decades, comparative biological analyses have undergone profound changes with the incorporation of rigorous evolutionary perspectives and phylogenetic information. This change followed in large part from the realization that traditional methods of statistical analysis tacitly assumed independence of all observations, when in fact biological groups such as species are differentially related to each other according to their evolutionary history. New phylogenetically based analytical methods were then rapidly developed, incorporated into 'the comparative method', and applied to many physiological, biochemical, morphological and behavioral investigations. We now review the rationale for including phylogenetic information in comparative studies and briefly discuss three methods for doing this (independent contrasts, generalized least-squares models, and Monte Carlo computer simulations). We discuss when and how to use phylogenetic information in comparative studies and provide several examples in which it has been helpful, or even crucial, to a comparative analysis. We also consider some difficulties with phylogenetically based statistical methods, and of comparative approaches in general, both practical and theoretical. It is our personal opinion that the incorporation of phylogeny information into comparative studies has been highly beneficial, not only because it can improve the reliability of statistical inferences, but also because it continually emphasizes the potential importance of past evolutionary history in determining current form and function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3015-3035
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


  • Allometry
  • Comparative method
  • Evolutionary physiology
  • Model of evolution
  • Phylogeny
  • Statistical analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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