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Mol Ecol. 2002 Dec;11(12):2475-87.

Slow mitochondrial DNA sequence evolution in the Anthozoa (Cnidaria).

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Department of Biological Sciences, 109 Cooke Hall, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA.


Mitochondrial genes have been used extensively in population genetic and phylogeographical analyses, in part due to a high rate of nucleotide substitution in animal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Nucleotide sequences of anthozoan mitochondrial genes, however, are virtually invariant among conspecifics, even at third codon positions of protein-coding sequences. Hence, mtDNA markers are of limited use for population-level studies in these organisms. Mitochondrial gene sequence divergence among anthozoan species is also low relative to that exhibited in other animals, although higher level relationships can be resolved with these markers. Substitution rates in anthozoan nuclear genes are much higher than in mitochondrial genes, whereas nuclear genes in other metazoans usually evolve more slowly than, or similar to, mitochondrial genes. Although several mechanisms accounting for a slow rate of sequence evolution have been proposed, there is not yet a definitive explanation for this observation. Slow evolution and unique characteristics may be common in primitive metazoans, suggesting that patterns of mtDNA evolution in these organisms differ from that in other animal systems.

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