Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Mol Biol Evol. 2001 Feb;18(2):206-13.

Calibration of avian molecular clocks.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


Molecular clocks can be calibrated using fossils within the group under study (internal calibration) or outside of the group (external calibration). Both types of calibration have their advantages and disadvantages. An internal calibration may reduce extrapolation error but may not be from the best fossil record, raising the issue of nonindependence. An external calibration may be more independent but also may have a greater extrapolation error. Here, we used the advantages of both methods by applying a sequential calibration to avian molecular clocks. We estimated a basal divergence within birds, the split between fowl (Galliformes) and ducks (Anseriformes), to be 89.8 +/- 6.97 MYA using an external calibration and 12 rate-constant nuclear genes. In turn, this time estimate was used as an internal calibration for three species-rich avian molecular data sets: mtDNA, DNA-DNA hybridization, and transferrin immunological distances. The resulting time estimates indicate that many major clades of modern birds had their origins within the Cretaceous. This supports earlier studies that identified large gaps in the avian fossil record and suggests that modern birds may have coexisted with other avian lineages for an extended period during the Cretaceous. The new time estimates are concordant with a continental breakup model for the origin of ratites.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk