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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Aug;28(2):171-85.

The root of the mammalian tree inferred from whole mitochondrial genomes.

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Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Institute of Molecular BioSciences, P.O. Box 11222, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Morphological and molecular data are currently contradictory over the position of monotremes with respect to marsupial and placental mammals. As part of a re-evaluation of both forms of data we examine complete mitochondrial genomes in more detail. There is a particularly large discrepancy in the frequencies of thymine and cytosine (T-C) between mitochondrial genomes that appears to affect some deep divergences in the mammalian tree. We report that recoding nucleotides to RY-characters, and partitioning maximum-likelihood analyses among subsets of data reduces such biases, and improves the fit of models to the data, respectively. RY-coding also increases the signal on the internal branches relative to external, and thus increases the phylogenetic signal. In contrast to previous analyses of mitochondrial data, our analyses favor Theria (marsupials plus placentals) over Marsupionta (monotremes plus marsupials). However, a short therian stem lineage is inferred, which is at variance with the traditionally deep placement of monotremes on morphological data.

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