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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1994 Apr 29;344(1307):77-82.

Extinction rates can be estimated from molecular phylogenies.

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  • 1A.F.R.C. Unit of Ecology and Behaviour, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, U.K.


Molecular phylogenies can be used to reject null models of the way we think evolution occurred, including patterns of lineage extinction. They can also be used to provide maximum likelihood estimates of parameters associated with lineage birth and death rates. We illustrate: (i) how molecular phylogenies provide information about the extent to which particular clades are likely to be under threat from extinction; (ii) how cursory analyses of molecular phylogenies can lead to incorrect conclusions about the evolutionary processes that have been at work; and (iii) how different evolutionary processes leave distinctive marks on the structure of reconstructed phylogenies.

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