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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Jan;30(1):74-86.

Calibration of galliform molecular clocks using multiple fossils and genetic partitions.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


For more than a century, members of the traditional avian order Galliformes (i.e., pheasants, partridges, junglefowl, and relatives) have been among the most intensively studied birds, but still a comprehensive timeframe for their evolutionary history is lacking. Thanks to a number of recent cladistic interpretations for several galliform fossils, candidates now exist that can potentially be used as accurate internal calibrations for molecular clocks. Here, we describe a molecular timescale for Galliformes based on cytochrome b and ND2 using nine mostly internal fossil-based anchorpoints. Beyond application of calibrations spanning the entire evolutionary history of Galliformes, care was taken to investigate the effects of calibration choice, substitution saturation, and rate heterogeneity among lineages on divergence time estimation. Results show broad consistency in time estimation with five out of the nine total calibrations. Our divergence time estimates, based on these anchorpoints, indicate that the early history of Galliformes took place in the Cretaceous, including the origin of the basal-most megapode and perhaps cracid lineages, but that the remaining morphological diversification likely started in the earliest Tertiary. The multi-calibration/multi-genetic partition approach used here highlights the importance of understanding the genetic saturation, variation, and rate constancy spectra for the accurate calculation of divergence times by use of molecular clocks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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