This chapter introduces Brownian motion as a model of trait evolution. I first connected Brownian motion to a model of neutral genetic drift for traits that have no effect on fitness. However, as I demonstrated, Brownian motion can result from a variety of other models, some of which include natural selection. For example, traits will follow Brownian motion under selection is if the strength and direction of selection varies randomly through time. In other words, testing for a Brownian motion model with your data tells you nothing about whether or not the trait is under selection.
- 3.1: Introduction to Brownian Motion
- Imagine that you want to use statistical approaches to understand how traits change through time. This requires an exact mathematical specification of how evolution takes place. Obviously there are a wide variety of models of trait evolution, from simple to complex. e.g., creating a model where a trait starts with a certain value and has some constant probability of changing in any unit of time or an alternative model that is more detailed and explicit and considers a large set of individuals.
- 3.2: Properties of Brownian Motion
- We can use Brownian motion to model the evolution of a continuously valued trait through time. Brownian motion is an example of a “random walk” model because the trait value changes randomly, in both direction and distance, over any time interval. The statistical process of Brownian motion was originally invented to describe the motion of particles suspended in a fluid.
- 3.4: Brownian Motion on a Phylogenetic Tree
- We can use the basic properties of Brownian motion model to figure out what will happen when characters evolve under this model on the branches of a phylogenetic tree.
- 3.5: Multivariate Brownian motion
- The Brownian motion model we described above was for a single character. However, we often want to consider more than one character at once. This requires the use of multivariate models. The situation is more complex than the univariate case – but not much! In this section I will derive the expectation for a set of (potentially correlated) traits evolving together under a multivariate Brownian motion model.