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phylopath: Easy phylogenetic path analysis in R

Abstract

Confirmatory path analysis allows researchers to evaluate and compare causal models using observational data. This tool has great value for comparative biologists since they are often unable to gather experimental data on macro-evolutionary hypotheses, but is cumbersome and error-prone to perform. I introduce phylopath, an R package that implements phylogenetic path analysis (PPA) as described by von Hardenberg & Gonzalez-Voyer (2013). In addition to the published method, I provide support for the inclusion of binary variables. I illustrate PPA and phylopath by recreating part of a study on the relationship between brain size and vulnerability to extinction. The package aims to make the analysis straight-forward, providing convenience functions, and several plotting methods, which I hope will encourage the spread of the method.

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