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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 May 24; 91(11): 5163–5167.

Chloroplast and nuclear gene sequences indicate late Pennsylvanian time for the last common ancestor of extant seed plants.


We have estimated the time for the last common ancestor of extant seed plants by using molecular clocks constructed from the sequences of the chloroplastic gene coding for the large subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (rbcL) and the nuclear gene coding for the small subunit of rRNA (Rrn18). Phylogenetic analyses of nucleotide sequences indicated that the earliest divergence of extant seed plants is likely represented by a split between conifer-cycad and angiosperm lineages. Relative-rate tests were used to assess homogeneity of substitution rates among lineages, and annual angiosperms were found to evolve at a faster rate than other taxa for rbcL and, thus, these sequences were excluded from construction of molecular clocks. Five distinct molecular clocks were calibrated using substitution rates for the two genes and four divergence times based on fossil and published molecular clock estimates. The five estimated times for the last common ancestor of extant seed plants were in agreement with one another, with an average of 285 million years and a range of 275-290 million years. This implies a substantially more recent ancestor of all extant seed plants than suggested by some theories of plant evolution.

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  • Nucleotide
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