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Mol Biol Evol. 1997 Dec;14(12):1266-72.

The complete mitochondrial genome of Alligator mississippiensis and the separation between recent archosauria (birds and crocodiles).

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Department of Genetics, University of Lund, Sweden.


The complete mitochondrial genome of the alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, was sequenced. The size of the molecule is 16,642 nucleotides. Previously reported rearrangements of tRNAs in crocodile mitochondrial genomes were confirmed and, relative to mammals, no other deviations of gene order were observed. The analysis of protein-coding genes of the alligator showed an evolutionary rate that is roughly the same as in mammals. Thus, the evolutionary rate in the alligator is faster than that in birds as well as that in cold-blooded vertebrates. This contradicts hypotheses of constant body temperatures or high metabolic rate being correlated with elevated molecular evolutionary rates. It is commonly acknowledged that birds are the closest living relatives to crocodiles. Birds and crocodiles represent the only archosaurian survivors of the mass extinction at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary. On the basis of mitochondrial protein-coding genes, the Haemothermia hypothesis, which defines birds and mammals as sister groups and thus challenges the traditional view, could be rejected. Maximum-likelihood branch length data of amino acid sequences suggest that the divergence between the avian and crocodilian lineages took place at approximately equal to 254 MYA.

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