Integrating phylogenetic information can potentially improve our ability to explain species' traits, patterns of community assembly, the network structure of communities, and ecosystem function. In this study, we use mathematical models to explore the ecological and evolutionary factors that modulate the explanatory power of phylogenetic information for communities of species that interact within a single trophic level. We find that phylogenetic relationships among species can influence trait evolution and rates of interaction among species, but only under particular models of species interaction. For example, when interactions within communities are mediated by a mechanism of phenotype matching, phylogenetic trees make specific predictions about trait evolution and rates of interaction. In contrast, if interactions within a community depend on a mechanism of phenotype differences, phylogenetic information has little, if any, predictive power for trait evolution and interaction rate. Together, these results make clear and testable predictions for when and how evolutionary history is expected to influence contemporary rates of species interaction.