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  1. Abstract Aim

    Community phylogenetic studies use information about the evolutionary relationships of species to understand the ecological processes of community assembly. A central premise of the field is that the evolution of species maps onto ecological patterns, and phylogeny reveals something more than species traits alone about the ecological mechanisms structuring communities, such as environmental filtering, competition, and facilitation. We argue, therefore, that there is a need for better understanding and modelling of the interaction of phylogeny with species traits and community composition.

    Innovation

    We outline a new approach that identifies clades that are ecophylogenetically clustered or overdispersed and assesses whether those clades have different rates of trait evolution. Ecophylogenetic theory would predict that the traits of clustered or overdispersed clades might have evolved differently, in terms of either tempo (fast or slow) or mode (e.g., under constraint or neutrally). We suggest that modelling the evolution of independent trait data in these clades represents a strong test of whether there is an association between the ecological co‐occurrence patterns of a species and its evolutionary history.

    Main conclusions

    Using an empirical dataset of mammals from around the world, we identify two clades of rodents whose species tend not to co‐occur in the same local assemblages (are phylogenetically overdispersed) and find independent evidence of slower rates of body mass evolution in these clades. Our approach, which assumes nothing about the mode of species trait evolution but instead seeks to explain it using ecological information, presents a new way to examine ecophylogenetic structure.

     
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