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Am J Bot. 2004 Oct;91(10):1656-65. doi: 10.3732/ajb.91.10.1656.

Molecular evidence on plant divergence times.

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  • 1Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis, California 95616 USA;


Estimation of divergence times from sequence data has become increasingly feasible in recent years. Conflicts between fossil evidence and molecular dates have sparked the development of new methods for inferring divergence times, further encouraging these efforts. In this paper, available methods for estimating divergence times are reviewed, especially those geared toward handling the widespread variation in rates of molecular evolution observed among lineages. The assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses of local clock, Bayesian, and rate smoothing methods are described. The rapidly growing literature applying these methods to key divergence times in plant evolutionary history is also reviewed. These include the crown group ages of green plants, land plants, seed plants, angiosperms, and major subclades of angiosperms. Finally, attempts to infer divergence times are described in the context of two very different temporal settings: recent adaptive radiations and much more ancient biogeographic patterns.

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