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Mol Biol Evol. 2001 Jan;18(1):27-37.

Phylogenetic signal and its decay in mitochondrial SSU and LSU rRNA gene fragments of Anisoptera.

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Institute for Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.


The phylogeny of Anisoptera, dragonflies in the strict sense, has proven to be notoriously difficult to resolve. Based on morphological characters, several recent publications dealing with the phylogeny of dragonflies proposed contradicting inter- and intrafamily relationships. We explored phylogenetic information content of mitochondrial large-subunit (LSU) and small-subunit (SSU) ribosomal gene fragments for these systematic problems. Starting at published universal primers, we developed primer sets suitable for amplifying large parts of the LSU and SSU rRNA genes within dragonflies. These fragments turned out to harbor sufficient phylogenetic information to satisfyingly resolve intrafamily relationships, but they contain insufficient phylogenetic structure to permit reliable conclusions about several interfamily relationships. We demonstrate that decay of phylogenetic signal progresses from intrafamily to interfamily to outgroup relationships and is correlated with an increase of genetic distances. As expected, signal decay is most pronounced in fast-changing sites. Additionally, base composition among fast-changing sites significantly deviates from the expected homogeneity. Homogeneity of base composition among all included taxa was restored only after removing fast-changing sites from the data set. The molecular data tentatively support interfamily relationships proposed by the most recent publication based on morphological characters of fossil and extant dragonflies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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