Comparative studies have increased greatly in number in recent years due to advances in statistical and phylogenetic methodologies. For these studies, a trade-off often exists between the number of species that can be included in any given study and the number of individuals examined per species. Here, we describe a simple simulation study examining the effect of intraspecific sample size on statistical error in comparative studies. We find that ignoring measurement error has no effect on type I error of nonphylogenetic analyses, but can lead to increased type I error under some circumstances when using independent contrasts. We suggest using ANOVA to evaluate the relative amounts of within- and between-species variation when considering a phylogenetic comparative study. If within-species variance is particularly large and intraspecific sample sizes small, then either larger sample sizes or comparative methods that account for measurement error are necessary.
Harmon, Luke JLosos, Jonathan BengComparative StudyResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.2006/03/11 09:00Evolution. 2005 Dec;59(12):2705-10.