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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 1996 Oct;6(2):245-58.

Interordinal mammalian relationships: evidence for paenungulate monophyly is provided by complete mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequences.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Pal√©ontologie CC 064, Institut de Science de l'Evolution-UAR 5554 CNRS, Montpellier, France.


The complete mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequences of 5 placental mammals belonging to the 3 orders Sirenia, Proboscidea, and Hyracoidea are reported together with phylogenetic analyses (distance and parsimony) of a total of 51 mammalian orthologues. This 12S rRNA database now includes the 2 extant proboscideans (the African and Asiatic elephants Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus), 2 of the 3 extant sirenian genera (the sea cow Dugong dugon and the West Indian manatee Trichechus manatus), and 2 of the 3 extant hyracoid genera (the rock and tree hyraxes Procavia capensis and Dendrohyrax dorsalis). The monophyly of the 3 orders Sirenia, Proboscidea, and Hyracoidea is supported by all kinds of analysis. There are 23 and 3 diagnostic subsitutions shared by the 2 proboscideans and the 2 hyracoids, respectively, but none by the 2 sirenians. The 2 proboscideans exhibit the fastest rates of 12S rRNA evolution among the 11 placental orders studied. Based on various taxonomic sampling methods among eutherian orders and marsupial outgroups, the most strongly supported clade in our comparisons clusters together the 3 orders Sirenia, Proboscidea, and Hyracoidea in the superorder Paenungulata. Within paenungulates, the grouping of sirenians and proboscideans within the mirorder Tethytheria is observed. This branching pattern is supported by all analyses by high bootstrap percentages (BPs) and decay indices. When only one species is selected per order or suborder, the taxonomic sampling leads to a relative variation in bootstrap support of 53% for Tethytheria (BPs ranging from 44 to 93%) and 7% for Paernungulata (92-99%). When each order or suborder is represented by two species, this relative variation decreased to 10% for Tethytheria (78-87%) and 3% for Paenungulata (96-99%). Two nearly exclusive synapomorphies for paenungulates are identified in the form of one transitional compensatory change, but none were detected for tethytherians. Such a robust and reliable resolution of the paenungulate node implies a long history of the common ancestors, allowing time for synapomorphies to accumulate. This observation suggests a Late Cretaceous/Early Paleocene origin for the Paenungulata.

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