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Genetica. 2001;111(1-3):349-57.

The phylogenetic placement of chondrichthyes: inferences from analysis of multiple genes and implications for comparative studies.

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  • 1Department of EPO Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder 80309, USA.


Elasmobranch fishes (sharks and rays) have proven valuable for inferring general and specific properties of molecular evolution through comparative studies with crown group vertebrates because they are the most ancient group of gnathostomes. Recent studies have questioned the conventional phylogenetic placement of sharks in the vertebrate tree, however. In this paper I review the importance of the basal position of Chondrichthyes for comparative biology and compile evidence from multiple, independent genes to evaluate the phylogenetic placement of sharks. The results suggests that alternative phylogenetic hypotheses of the relationships among the Chondrichthyes, Actinopterygii and Sarcopterygii can not be refuted with available data, implying that the assumption of the basal placement of sharks in the vertebrate tree is suspect. Resolving the phylogeny of basal vertebrates is important for testing hypotheses about the evolution of vertebrates, and the current lack of a robust phylogeny limits evolutionary inferences that can be gained from comparative studies that include sharks and rays.

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