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Syst Biol. 1997 Jun;46(2):235-68.

Tests of turtle phylogeny: molecular, morphological, and paleontological approaches.

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Section of Evolution and Ecology and Center for Populatiion Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


We present phylogenetic analyses of both molecular and morphological data for the 23 major lineages of living turtles and seven key fossil taxa. Nearly 1 kilobase of cytochrome b sequence, 325 base pairs of 12S ribosomal DNA, and 115 morphological characters contained similar phylogenetic information, although each provided unique information on different nodes of chelonian history. A character-based combinability test (implemented in PAUP*) and a non-parametric test of taxonomic congruence indicated no strong evidence for heterogeneity among data sets, and we used a combined approach to estimate a final phylogeny of the major lineages of living turtles. This approach resulted in a very well-resolved tree, with only a few of the deep branches within the Cryptodira left as an unresolved polytomy. The addition of six relatively complete fossils chosen to help resolve this basal polytomy provided little added resolution to the tree and resulted in a sharp decline in bootstrap proportions for nodes near the fossils. Branch-length analysis and independent dates from the fossil record suggest that these unresolved nodes may represent a rapid radiation of the major cryptodiran lineages 90-120 million years ago.

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