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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2006 Jun;39(3):706-21. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

Accounting for variation of substitution rates through time in Bayesian phylogeny reconstruction of Sapotoideae (Sapotaceae).

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Department of Phanerogamic Botany, Swedish Museum of Natural History, P.O. Box 50007, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden.


We used Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of 5 kb of chloroplast DNA data from 68 Sapotaceae species to clarify phylogenetic relationships within Sapotoideae, one of the two major clades within Sapotaceae. Variation in substitution rates through time was shown to be a very important aspect of molecular evolution for this data set. Relative rates tests indicated that changes in overall rate have taken place in several lineages during the history of the group and Bayes factors strongly supported a covarion model, which allows the rate of a site to vary over time, over commonly used models that only allow rates to vary across sites. Rate variation over time was actually found to be a more important model component than rate variation across sites. The covarion model was originally developed for coding gene sequences and has so far only been tested for this type of data. The fact that it performed so well with the present data set, consisting mainly of data from noncoding spacer regions, suggests that it deserves a wider consideration in model based phylogenetic inference. Repeatability of phylogenetic results was very difficult to obtain with the more parameter rich models, and analyses with identical settings often supported different topologies. Overparameterization may be the reason why the MCMC did not sample from the posterior distribution in these cases. The problem could, however, be overcome by using less parameter rich evolutionary models, and adjusting the MCMC settings. The phylogenetic results showed that two taxa, previously thought to belong in Sapotoideae, are not part of this group. Eberhardtia aurata is the sister of the two major Sapotaceae clades, Chrysophylloideae and Sapotoideae, and Neohemsleya usambarensis belongs in Chrysophylloideae. Within Sapotoideae two clades, Sideroxyleae and Sapoteae, were strongly supported. Bayesian analysis of the character history of some floral morphological traits showed that the ancestral type of flower in Sapotoideae may have been characterized by floral parts (sepals, petals, stamens, and staminodes) in single whorls of five, entire corolla lobes, and seeds with an adaxial hilum.

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