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Mol Biol Evol. 2002 Dec;19(12):2060-70.

Four new mitochondrial genomes and the increased stability of evolutionary trees of mammals from improved taxon sampling.

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  • 1Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Institute of Molecular BioSciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


We have sequenced four new mitochondrial genomes to improve the stability of the tree for placental mammals; they are two insectivores (a gymnure, Echinosorex gymnurus and Formosan shrew Soriculus fumidus); a Formosan lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus monoceros); and the New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri). A revision to the hedgehog sequence (Erinaceus europaeus) is also reported. All five are from the Laurasiatheria grouping of eutherian mammals. On this new data set there is a strong tendency for the hedgehog and its relative, the gymnure, to join with the other Laurasiatherian insectivores (mole and shrews). To quantify the stability of trees from this data we define, based on nuclear sequences, a major four-way split in Laurasiatherians. This ([Xenarthra, Afrotheria], [Laurasiatheria, Supraprimates]) split is also found from mitochondrial genomes using either protein-coding or RNA (rRNA and tRNA) data sets. The high similarity of the mitochondrial and nuclear-derived trees allows a quantitative estimate of the stability of trees from independent data sets, as detected from a triplet Markov analysis. There are significant changes in the mutational processes within placental mammals that are ignored by current tree programs. On the basis of our quantitative results, we expect the evolutionary tree for mammals to be resolved quickly, and this will allow other problems to be solved.

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