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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2002 Jul;24(1):58-65.

Phylogenetic dating with confidence intervals using mean path lengths.

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1
Department of Mathematics, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 480, SE-751 06 Uppsala, Sweden. tom.britton@math.uu.se

Abstract

The mean path length (MPL) method, a simple method for dating nodes in a phylogenetic tree, is presented. For small trees the age estimates and corresponding confidence intervals, calibrated with fossil data, can be calculated by hand, and for larger trees a computer program gives the results instantaneously (a Pascal program is available upon request). Necessary input data are a rooted phylogenetic tree with edge lengths (internode lengths) approximately corresponding to the number of substitutions between the nodes. Given this, the MPL method produces relative age estimates with confidence intervals for all nodes of the tree. With the age of one or several nodes of the tree being known from reference fossils, the relative age estimates induce absolute age estimates and confidence intervals of the nodes of the tree. The MPL method relies on the assumptions that substitutions occur randomly and independently in different sites in the DNA sequence and that the substitution rates are approximately constant in time, i.e., assuming a molecular clock. A method is presented for identification of the nodes in the tree at which significant deviations from the clock assumption occur, such that dating may be done using different rates in different parts of the tree. The MPL method is illustrated with the Liliales, a group of monocot flowering plants.

PMID:
12128028
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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