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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2010 Aug;56(2):554-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2010.04.019. Epub 2010 Apr 23.

A multilocus timescale for the origin of extant amphibians.

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Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom.


One of the most hotly debated topics in vertebrate evolution is the origin of extant amphibians (Lissamphibia). The recent contribution of molecular data is shedding new light on this debate, but many important questions still remain unresolved. I have assembled a large and comprehensive multilocus dataset (the largest to date in terms of number and heterogeneity of sequence characters) combining mitogenomic and nuclear information from 23 genes for a sufficiently dense taxon sampling with the key major lineages of extant amphibians. This dataset has been used to infer a robust phylogenetic framework and molecular timescale for the origin of extant amphibians employing the most recent phylogenetic and dating methods, as well as several alternative calibration schemes. The monophyly of each extant amphibian order and the sister group relationship between frogs and salamanders (Batrachia hypothesis) are all strongly supported. Dating analyses (all methods and calibration schemes used) suggest that the origin of extant amphibians (divergence between caecilian and batrachians) occurred in the Late Carboniferous, around 315 Mya, and the divergence between frogs and salamanders occurred in the Early Permian, around 290 Mya. These age estimates are more consistent with the fossil record than previous older estimates, and more in line with the Temnospondyli or the Lepospondyli hypotheses of lissamphibian ancestry (although the polyphyly hypothesis cannot be completely ruled out).

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