Analyses of morphological disparity provide unique perspectives of evolutionary history, quantifying the anatomical variety of clades and its fluctuation through time. This course will provide an in-depth overview of the different types of data and methods that underpin these analyses and give participants the necessary skills and understanding to apply them to their own research questions.
Across five days, we will cover the advantages and disadvantages of different types of morphological data in analyses of disparity, the range of distance metrics than can be used to quantify intertaxon dissimilarity, and the ordination methods that can be used to reduce dimensionality and facilitate interpretation. How the resulting patterns in disparity can be visualised, quantified, and interpreted with nuance will also be covered at length.
This course will be predominantly practical but will include some theoretical lectures to provide a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of distance metric calculation and ordination. How different types of morphological data are derived will also be discussed but will not be included in the practical component of the course. All analyses will be conducted in R, a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics (https://www.r-project.org/). These analyses will use functions from a variety of packages including ape, geiger, phytools, phangorn, Claddis, dispRity, vegan, and geomorph.
We will provide a selection of model datasets for participants to use during the practical components of the course. However, we encourage attendees to bring their own datasets so that they can gain experience tailoring the techniques this course will introduce to their own analytical needs right away.