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Mol Biol Evol. 2010 Dec;27(12):2804-16. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq166. Epub 2010 Jun 29.

Mammalian evolution may not be strictly bifurcating.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Organism Biology, Division of Evolutionary Molecular Systematics, University of Lund, Lund, Sweden.

Abstract

The massive amount of genomic sequence data that is now available for analyzing evolutionary relationships among 31 placental mammals reduces the stochastic error in phylogenetic analyses to virtually zero. One would expect that this would make it possible to finally resolve controversial branches in the placental mammalian tree. We analyzed a 2,863,797 nucleotide-long alignment (3,364 genes) from 31 placental mammals for reconstructing their evolution. Most placental mammalian relationships were resolved, and a consensus of their evolution is emerging. However, certain branches remain difficult or virtually impossible to resolve. These branches are characterized by short divergence times in the order of 1-4 million years. Computer simulations based on parameters from the real data show that as little as about 12,500 amino acid sites could be sufficient to confidently resolve short branches as old as about 90 million years ago (Ma). Thus, the amount of sequence data should no longer be a limiting factor in resolving the relationships among placental mammals. The timing of the early radiation of placental mammals coincides with a period of climate warming some 100-80 Ma and with continental fragmentation. These global processes may have triggered the rapid diversification of placental mammals. However, the rapid radiations of certain mammalian groups complicate phylogenetic analyses, possibly due to incomplete lineage sorting and introgression. These speciation-related processes led to a mosaic genome and conflicting phylogenetic signals. Split network methods are ideal for visualizing these problematic branches and can therefore depict data conflict and possibly the true evolutionary history better than strictly bifurcating trees. Given the timing of tectonics, of placental mammalian divergences, and the fossil record, a Laurasian rather than Gondwanan origin of placental mammals seems the most parsimonious explanation.

PMID:
20591845
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2981514
Free PMC Article
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