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      Phylogenomic analyses support the position of turtles as the sister group of birds and crocodiles (Archosauria)

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      BMC Biology

      BioMed Central

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          Abstract

          Background

          The morphological peculiarities of turtles have, for a long time, impeded their accurate placement in the phylogeny of amniotes. Molecular data used to address this major evolutionary question have so far been limited to a handful of markers and/or taxa. These studies have supported conflicting topologies, positioning turtles as either the sister group to all other reptiles, to lepidosaurs (tuatara, lizards and snakes), to archosaurs (birds and crocodiles), or to crocodilians. Genome-scale data have been shown to be useful in resolving other debated phylogenies, but no such adequate dataset is yet available for amniotes.

          Results

          In this study, we used next-generation sequencing to obtain seven new transcriptomes from the blood, liver, or jaws of four turtles, a caiman, a lizard, and a lungfish. We used a phylogenomic dataset based on 248 nuclear genes (187,026 nucleotide sites) for 16 vertebrate taxa to resolve the origins of turtles. Maximum likelihood and Bayesian concatenation analyses and species tree approaches performed under the most realistic models of the nucleotide and amino acid substitution processes unambiguously support turtles as a sister group to birds and crocodiles. The use of more simplistic models of nucleotide substitution for both concatenation and species tree reconstruction methods leads to the artefactual grouping of turtles and crocodiles, most likely because of substitution saturation at third codon positions. Relaxed molecular clock methods estimate the divergence between turtles and archosaurs around 255 million years ago. The most recent common ancestor of living turtles, corresponding to the split between Pleurodira and Cryptodira, is estimated to have occurred around 157 million years ago, in the Upper Jurassic period. This is a more recent estimate than previously reported, and questions the interpretation of controversial Lower Jurassic fossils as being part of the extant turtles radiation.

          Conclusions

          These results provide a phylogenetic framework and timescale with which to interpret the evolution of the peculiar morphological, developmental, and molecular features of turtles within the amniotes.

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          Most cited references 66

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          Is a new and general theory of molecular systematics emerging?

          The advent and maturation of algorithms for estimating species trees-phylogenetic trees that allow gene tree heterogeneity and whose tips represent lineages, populations and species, as opposed to genes-represent an exciting confluence of phylogenetics, phylogeography, and population genetics, and ushers in a new generation of concepts and challenges for the molecular systematist. In this essay I argue that to better deal with the large multilocus datasets brought on by phylogenomics, and to better align the fields of phylogeography and phylogenetics, we should embrace the primacy of species trees, not only as a new and useful practical tool for systematics, but also as a long-standing conceptual goal of systematics that, largely due to the lack of appropriate computational tools, has been eclipsed in the past few decades. I suggest that phylogenies as gene trees are a "local optimum" for systematics, and review recent advances that will bring us to the broader optimum inherent in species trees. In addition to adopting new methods of phylogenetic analysis (and ideally reserving the term "phylogeny" for species trees rather than gene trees), the new paradigm suggests shifts in a number of practices, such as sampling data to maximize not only the number of accumulated sites but also the number of independently segregating genes; routinely using coalescent or other models in computer simulations to allow gene tree heterogeneity; and understanding better the role of concatenation in influencing topologies and confidence in phylogenies. By building on the foundation laid by concepts of gene trees and coalescent theory, and by taking cues from recent trends in multilocus phylogeography, molecular systematics stands to be enriched. Many of the challenges and lessons learned for estimating gene trees will carry over to the challenge of estimating species trees, although adopting the species tree paradigm will clarify many issues (such as the nature of polytomies and the star tree paradox), raise conceptually new challenges, or provide new answers to old questions.
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            Inconsistency of phylogenetic estimates from concatenated data under coalescence.

            Although multiple gene sequences are becoming increasingly available for molecular phylogenetic inference, the analysis of such data has largely relied on inference methods designed for single genes. One of the common approaches to analyzing data from multiple genes is concatenation of the individual gene data to form a single supergene to which traditional phylogenetic inference procedures - e.g., maximum parsimony (MP) or maximum likelihood (ML) - are applied. Recent empirical studies have demonstrated that concatenation of sequences from multiple genes prior to phylogenetic analysis often results in inference of a single, well-supported phylogeny. Theoretical work, however, has shown that the coalescent can produce substantial variation in single-gene histories. Using simulation, we combine these ideas to examine the performance of the concatenation approach under conditions in which the coalescent produces a high level of discord among individual gene trees and show that it leads to statistically inconsistent estimation in this setting. Furthermore, use of the bootstrap to measure support for the inferred phylogeny can result in moderate to strong support for an incorrect tree under these conditions. These results highlight the importance of incorporating variation in gene histories into multilocus phylogenetics.
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              AMNIOTE PHYLOGENY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FOSSILS

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Biol
                BMC Biol
                BMC Biology
                BioMed Central
                1741-7007
                2012
                27 July 2012
                : 10
                : 65
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, UMR5554-CNRS-IRD, Université Montpellier 2, Montpellier, France
                [2 ]CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal
                Article
                1741-7007-10-65
                10.1186/1741-7007-10-65
                3473239
                22839781
                Copyright ©2012 Chiari et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Research Article

                Life sciences

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