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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2002 Jul;24(1):78-90.

Amino acid vs. nucleotide characters: challenging preconceived notions.

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The Ohio State University Herbarium, 1315 Kinnear Road, Columbus, OH 43212, USA.


The 567-terminal analysis of atpB, rbcL, and 18S rDNA was used as an empirical example to test the use of amino acid vs. nucleotide characters for protein-coding genes at deeper taxonomic levels. Nucleotides for atpB and rbcL had 6.5 times the amount of possible synapomorphy as amino acids. Based on parsimony analyses with unordered character states, nucleotides outperformed amino acids for all three measures of phylogenetic signal used (resolution, branch support, and congruence with independent evidence). The nucleotide tree was much more resolved than the amino acid tree, for both large and small clades. Nearly twice the percentage of well-supported clades resolved in the 18S rDNA tree were resolved using nucleotides (91.8%) relative to amino acids (49.2%). The well-supported clades resolved by both character types were much better supported by nucleotides (98.7% vs. 83.8% average jackknife support). The faster evolving nucleotides with a smaller average character-state space outperformed the slower evolving amino acids with a larger average character-state space. Nucleotides outperformed amino acids even with 90% of the terminals deleted. The lack of resolution on the amino acid trees appears to be caused by a lack of congruence among the amino acids, not a lack of replacement substitutions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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