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Journal Article

Advice on comparing two independent samples of circular data in biology.


Malkemper,  E. Pascal
Max Planck Research Group Neurobiology of Magnetoreception, Center of Advanced European Studies and Research (caesar), Max Planck Society;
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Landler, L., Ruxton, G. D., & Malkemper, E. P. (2021). Advice on comparing two independent samples of circular data in biology. Scientific Reports, 11(1): 20337. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-99299-5.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-6AEC-7
Many biological variables are recorded on a circular scale and therefore need different statistical treatment. A common question that is asked of such circular data involves comparison between two groups: Are the populations from which the two samples are drawn differently distributed around the circle? We compared 18 tests for such situations (by simulation) in terms of both abilities to control Type-I error rate near the nominal value, and statistical power. We found that only eight tests offered good control of Type-I error in all our simulated situations. Of these eight, we were able to identify theWatson's U2 test and aMANOVAapproach, based on trigonometric functions of the data, as offering the best power in the overwhelming majority of our test circumstances. There was often little to choose between these tests in terms of power, and no situation where either of the remaining six tests offered substantially better power than either of these. Hence, we recommend the routine use of either Watson's U2 test or MANOVAapproach when comparing two samples of circular data.