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Mol Biol Evol. 1998 Nov;15(11):1481-90.

A comparative summary of genetic distances in the vertebrates from the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens 30602, USA.


Mitochondrial cytochrome b (cytb) is among the most extensively sequenced genes to date across the vertebrates. Here, we employ nearly 2,000 cytb gene sequences from GenBank to calculate and compare levels of genetic distance between sister species, congeneric species, and confamilial genera within and across the major vertebrate taxonomic classes. The results of these analyses parallel and reinforce some of the principal trends in genetic distance estimates previously reported in a summary of the multilocus allozyme literature. In particular, surveyed avian taxa on average show significantly less genetic divergence than do same-rank taxa surveyed in other vertebrate groups, notably amphibians and reptiles. Various biological possibilities and taxonomic "artifacts" are considered that might account for this pattern. Regardless of the explanation, by the yardstick of genetic divergence in this mtDNA gene, as well as genetic distances in allozymes, there is rather poor equivalency of taxonomic rank across some of the vertebrates.

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