Phylogenetic evidence for biological traits that increase the net diversification rate of lineages (key innovations) is most commonly drawn from comparisons of clade size. This can work well for ancient, unreversed traits and for correlating multiple trait origins with higher diversification rates, but it is less suitable for unique events, recently evolved innovations, and traits that exhibit homoplasy. Here I present a new method for detecting the phylogenetic signature of key innovations that tests whether the evolutionary history of the candidate trait is associated with shorter waiting times between cladogenesis events. The method employs stochastic models of character evolution and cladogenesis and integrates well into a Bayesian framework in which uncertainty in historical inferences (such as phylogenetic relationships) is allowed. Applied to a well-known example in plants, nectar spurs in columbines, the method gives much stronger support to the key innovation hypothesis than previous tests.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2