Detecting lineage-specific shifts in diversification: A proper likelihood approach

Giovanni Laudanno*, Bart Haegeman, Daniel L Rabosky, Rampal S Etienne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
145 Downloads (Pure)


The branching patterns of molecular phylogenies are generally assumed to contain information on rates of the underlying speciation and extinction processes. Simple birth-death models with constant, time-varying, or diversity-dependent rates have been invoked to explain these patterns. They have one assumption in common: all lineages have the same set of diversification rates at a given point in time. It seems likely, however, that there is variability in diversification rates across subclades in a phylogenetic tree. This has inspired the construction of models that allow multiple rate regimes across the phylogeny, with instantaneous shifts between these regimes. Several methods exist for calculating the likelihood of a phylogeny under a specified mapping of diversification regimes and for performing inference on the most likely diversification history that gave rise to a particular phylogenetic tree. Here we show that the likelihood computation of these methods is not correct. We provide a new framework to compute the likelihood correctly and show, with simulations of a single shift, that the correct likelihood indeed leads to parameter estimates that are on average in much better agreement with the generating parameters than the incorrect likelihood. 15 Moreover, we show that our corrected likelihood can be extended to multiple rate shifts in time-dependent and diversity-dependent models. We argue that identifying shifts in diversification rates is a non-trivial model selection exercise where one has to choose whether shifts in now-extinct lineages are taken into account or not. Hence, our framework also resolves the recent debate on such unobserved shifts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389–407
Number of pages19
JournalSystematic biology
Issue number2
Early online date3-Jul-2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2021

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