The neutral theory of molecular evolution predicts that rates of phenotypic change are largely independent from genotypic change. A recent study by Bromham et al. (2002) confirmed this expectation, finding no evidence for correlated phenotypic and molecular evolutionary rates in animals. We reevaluate this hypothesis, sampling at different taxonomic levels in plants and animals, using Bayesian inference to reconstruct phylogenetic trees and estimate rates of molecular evolution. We use independent contrasts in branch lengths to maximize the information extracted from each of the trees and nodal posterior probabilities to assess the influence of phylogenetic error. Our results indicate that in vascular plants between 2% and 11% of the variation in phenotypic rates of change can be explained by the rate of genotypic change. These results may be explained by the idea that processes that affect general evolutionary rates, such as body size, may also be expected to influence rates of morphological change.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3