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Gene. 2000 Dec 23;259(1-2):177-87.

Long-branch attraction phenomenon and the impact of among-site rate variation on rodent phylogeny.

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  • 1Centro di Studio sui Mitocondri e Metabolismo Energetico, CNR, via Amendola 165/A, 70126 Bari, Italy.


The phylogenetic relationships among major lineages of rodents is one of the issues most debated by both paleontologists and molecular biologists. In the present study, we have analyzed all complete mammalian mitochondrial genomes available in the databases, including five rodent species (rat, mouse, dormouse, squirrel and guinea-pig). Phylogenetic analyses were performed on H-strand amino acid sequences by means of maximum-likelihood and on H-strand protein-coding and ribosomal genes by means of distance methods. Also, log-likelihood ratio tests were applied to different tree topologies under the assumption of rodent monophyly, paraphyly or polyphyly. The analyses significantly rejected rodent monophyly and showed the existence of two differentiated clades, one containing non-murids (dormouse, squirrel and guinea-pig) and the other containing murids (rat and mouse). Long-branch attraction between murids and the outgroups could not be responsible for the existence of two different rodent clades, as no significant differences in evolutionary rate have been observed, except in the case of the squirrel, which shows a lower rate. The impact of among-site rate variation models on the phylogeny of rodents has been evaluated using the gamma distribution model. Results have shown that relationships among rodents remained unchanged, and the general topology of the tree was not affected, even though some branches were not properly resolved, most likely due to a lack of fit between estimated and real rate heterogeneity parameters.

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