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Mol Biol Evol. 2001 May;18(5):777-91.

Molecular phylogeny and divergence time estimates for major rodent groups: evidence from multiple genes.

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Department of Biology and Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01002, USA.


The order Rodentia contains half of all extant mammal species, and from an evolutionary standpoint, there are persistent controversies surrounding the monophyly of the order, divergence dates for major lineages, and relationships among families. Exons of growth hormone receptor (GHR) and breast cancer susceptibility (BRCA1) genes were sequenced for a wide diversity of rodents and other mammals and combined with sequences of the mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene and previously published sequences of von Willebrand factor (vWF). Rodents exhibit rates of amino acid replacement twice those observed for nonrodents, and this rapid rate of evolution influences estimates of divergence dates. Based on GHR sequences, monophyly is supported, with the estimated divergence between hystricognaths and most sciurognaths dating to about 75 MYA. Most estimated dates of divergence are consistent with the fossil record, including a date of 23 MYA for Mus-Rattus divergence. These dates are considerably later than those derived from some other molecular studies. Among combined and separate analyses of the various gene sequences, moderate to strong support was found for several clades. GHR appears to have greater resolving power than do 12S or vWF. Despite its complete unresponsiveness to growth hormone, Cavia (and other hystricognaths) exhibits a conservative rate of change in the intracellular domain of GHR.

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