Heterogeneous populations can lead to important differences in birth and death rates across a phylogeny. Taking this heterogeneity into account is thus critical to obtain accurate estimates of the underlying population dynamics. We present a new multi-state birth-death model (MSBD) that can estimate lineage-specific birth and death rates. For species phylogenies, this corresponds to estimating lineage-dependent speciation and extinction rates. Contrary to existing models, we do not require a prior hypothesis on a trait driving the rate differences and we allow the same rates to be present in different parts of the phylogeny. Using simulated datasets, we show that the MSBD model can reliably infer the presence of multiple evolutionary regimes, their positions in the tree, and the birth and death rates associated with each. We also present a re-analysis of two empirical datasets and compare the results obtained by MSBD and by the existing software BAMM. The MSBD model is implemented as a package in the Bayesian inference software BEAST2, which allows joint inference of the phylogeny and the model parameters.
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