Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Circular data in biology: advice for effectively implementing statistical procedures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Lukas Landler, Graeme D. Ruxton, E. Pascal Malkemper

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Circular data are common in biological studies. The most fundamental question that can be asked of a sample of circular data is whether it suggests that the underlying population is uniformly distributed around the circle, or whether it is concentrated around at least one preferred direction (e.g. a migratory goal or activity phase). We compared the statistical power of five commonly used tests (the Rayleigh test, the V-test, Watson’s test, Kuiper’s test and Rao’s spacing test) across a range of different unimodal scenarios. The V-test showed higher power for symmetrical distributions, Rao’s spacing performed worst for all explored unimodal distributions tested and the remaining three tests showed very similar performance. However, the V-test only applies if the hypothesis is restricted to one (pre-specified) direction of interest. In all other unimodal cases, we recommend using the Rayleigh test. Much less explored is the multimodal case with data concentrated around several directions. We performed power simulations for a variety of multimodal situations, testing the performance of the widely used Rayleigh, Rao’s, Watson, and Kuiper’s tests as well as the more recent Bogdan and Hermans-Rasson tests. Our analyses of alternative statistical methods show that the commonly used tests lack statistical power in many of multimodal cases. Transformation of the raw data (e.g. doubling the angles) can overcome some of the issues, but only in the case of perfect f-fold symmetry. However, the Hermans-Rasson method, which is not yet implemented in any software package, outcompetes the alternative tests (often by substantial margins) in most of the multimodal situations explored. We recommend the wider uptake of the powerful but hitherto neglected Hermans-Rasson method. In summary, we provide guidance for biologists helping them to make decisions when testing circular data for single or multiple departures from uniformity.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number128
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume72
Issue number8
Early online date11 Jul 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

    Research areas

  • Animal navigation, Biostatistics, Chronobiology, Circadian, Emlen funnel, Magnetoreception

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. A theory for investment across defences triggered at different stages of a predator-prey encounter

    Wang, L., Ruxton, G. D., Cornell, S. J., Speed, M. P. & Broom, M., 17 Apr 2019, In : Journal of Theoretical Biology. 473, p. 9-19 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Secondary dispersal mechanisms of winged seeds: a review

    der Weduwen, D. & Ruxton, G. D., 19 Jun 2019, In : Biological Reviews. Early View, 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Circular statistics meets practical limitations: a simulation-based Rao’s spacing test for non-continuous data

    Landler, L., Ruxton, G. D. & Malkemper, E. P., 10 May 2019, In : Movement Ecology. 7, 5 p., 15.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Dropping to escape: a review of an under-appreciated antipredator defence

    Humphreys, R. K. & Ruxton, G. D., Apr 2019, In : Biological Reviews. 94, 2, p. 575-589

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Related by journal

  1. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Monica Arso Civil (Reviewer)
    15 Dec 2016 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  2. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Luke Edward Rendell (Editor)
    2015 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  3. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Kate Arnold (Reviewer)
    2007 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  4. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Vincent Janik (Member of editorial board)
    20052014

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  5. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Anne Magurran (Editor)
    19972002

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

Related by journal

  1. The development of communication in alarm contexts in wild chimpanzees

    Dezecache, G., Crockford, C. & Zuberbuhler, K., 6 Jul 2019, In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 73, 9 p., 104.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. A review of thanatosis (death feigning) as an anti-predator behaviour

    Humphreys, R. K. & Ruxton, G. D., Feb 2018, In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 72, 16 p., 22.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Contextual encoding in titi monkey alarm call sequences

    Berthet, M., Neumann, C., Mesbahi, G., Cäsar Damas, C. & Zuberbuhler, K., Jan 2018, In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 72, 11 p., 8.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. First-year sperm whale calves echolocate and perform long, deep dives

    Tønnesen, P., Gero, S., Ladegaard, M., Johnson, M. & Madsen, P. T., Oct 2018, In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 72, 165.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 255069555