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Genetics. 1996 Nov;144(3):1165-80.

The complete mitochondrial DNA sequence of the bichir (Polypterus ornatipinnis), a basal ray-finned fish: ancient establishment of the consensus vertebrate gene order.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York, Stony Brook 11794-5245, USA.


The evolutionary position of bichirs is disputed, and they have been variously aligned with ray-finned fish (Actinopterygii) or lobe-finned fish (Sarcopterygii), which also include tetrapods. Alternatively, they have been placed into their own group, the Brachiopterygii. The phylogenetic position of bichirs as possibly the most primitive living bony fish (Osteichthyes) made knowledge about their mitochondrial genome of considerable evolutionary interest. We determined the complete nucleotide sequence (16,624 bp) of the mitochondrial genome of a bichir, Polypterus ornalipinnis. Its genome contains 13 proteincoding genes, 22 tRNAs, two rRNAs and one major noncoding region. The genome's structure and organization show that this is the most basal vertebrate that conforms to the consensus vertebrate mtDNA gene order. Bichir mitochondrial protein-coding and ribosomal RNA genes have greater sequence similarity to ray-finned fish than to either lamprey or lungfish. Phylogenetic analyses suggest the bichir's placement as the most basal living member of the ray-finned fish and rule out its classification as a lobefinned fish. Hence, its lobe-fins are probably not a shared-derived trait with those of lobe-finned fish (Sarcopterygii).

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