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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Jul;48(1):157-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 Mar 13.

Erratic rates of molecular evolution and incongruence of fossil and molecular divergence time estimates in Ostracoda (Crustacea).

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Ecology Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California-Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.


Dating evolutionary origins of taxa is essential for understanding rates and timing of evolutionary events, often inciting intense debate when molecular estimates differ from first fossil appearances. For numerous reasons, ostracods present a challenging case study of rates of evolution and congruence of fossil and molecular divergence time estimates. On the one hand, ostracods have one of the densest fossil records of any metazoan group. However, taxonomy of fossil ostracods is controversial, owing at least in part to homoplasy of carapaces, the most commonly fossilized part. In addition, rates of evolution are variable in ostracods. Here, we report evidence of extreme variation in the rate of molecular evolution in different ostracod groups. This rate is significantly elevated in Halocyprid ostracods, a widespread planktonic group, consistent with previous observations that planktonic groups show elevated rates of molecular evolution. At the same time, the rate of molecular evolution is slow in the lineage leading to Manawa staceyi, a relict species that we estimate diverged approximately 500 million years ago from its closest known living relative. We also report multiple cases of significant incongruence between fossil and molecular estimates of divergence times in Ostracoda. Although relaxed clock methods improve the congruence of fossil and molecular divergence estimates over strict clock models, incongruence is present regardless of method. We hypothesize that this observed incongruence is driven largely by problems with taxonomy of fossil Ostracoda. Our results illustrate the difficulty in consistently estimating lineage divergence times, even in the presence of a voluminous fossil record.

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