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      Tinamous and moa flock together: mitochondrial genome sequence analysis reveals independent losses of flight among ratites.

      Systematic Biology

      Animals, Base Composition, Base Sequence, Bayes Theorem, Biological Evolution, DNA, Mitochondrial, genetics, Evolution, Molecular, Flight, Animal, Likelihood Functions, Models, Genetic, Molecular Sequence Data, Palaeognathae, Phylogeny, Sequence Analysis, DNA

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          Abstract

          Ratites are large, flightless birds and include the ostrich, rheas, kiwi, emu, and cassowaries, along with extinct members, such as moa and elephant birds. Previous phylogenetic analyses of complete mitochondrial genome sequences have reinforced the traditional belief that ratites are monophyletic and tinamous are their sister group. However, in these studies ratite monophyly was enforced in the analyses that modeled rate heterogeneity among variable sites. Relaxing this topological constraint results in strong support for the tinamous (which fly) nesting within ratites. Furthermore, upon reducing base compositional bias and partitioning models of sequence evolution among protein codon positions and RNA structures, the tinamou-moa clade grouped with kiwi, emu, and cassowaries to the exclusion of the successively more divergent rheas and ostrich. These relationships are consistent with recent results from a large nuclear data set, whereas our strongly supported finding of a tinamou-moa grouping further resolves palaeognath phylogeny. We infer flight to have been lost among ratites multiple times in temporally close association with the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. This circumvents requirements for transient microcontinents and island chains to explain discordance between ratite phylogeny and patterns of continental breakup. Ostriches may have dispersed to Africa from Eurasia, putting in question the status of ratites as an iconic Gondwanan relict taxon.

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          Most cited references 64

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          The delayed rise of present-day mammals.

          Did the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event, by eliminating non-avian dinosaurs and most of the existing fauna, trigger the evolutionary radiation of present-day mammals? Here we construct, date and analyse a species-level phylogeny of nearly all extant Mammalia to bring a new perspective to this question. Our analyses of how extant lineages accumulated through time show that net per-lineage diversification rates barely changed across the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary. Instead, these rates spiked significantly with the origins of the currently recognized placental superorders and orders approximately 93 million years ago, before falling and remaining low until accelerating again throughout the Eocene and Oligocene epochs. Our results show that the phylogenetic 'fuses' leading to the explosion of extant placental orders are not only very much longer than suspected previously, but also challenge the hypothesis that the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event had a major, direct influence on the diversification of today's mammals.
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            Evaluation of the maximum likelihood estimate of the evolutionary tree topologies from DNA sequence data, and the branching order in hominoidea.

            A maximum likelihood method for inferring evolutionary trees from DNA sequence data was developed by Felsenstein (1981). In evaluating the extent to which the maximum likelihood tree is a significantly better representation of the true tree, it is important to estimate the variance of the difference between log likelihood of different tree topologies. Bootstrap resampling can be used for this purpose (Hasegawa et al. 1988; Hasegawa and Kishino 1989), but it imposes a great computation burden. To overcome this difficulty, we developed a new method for estimating the variance by expressing it explicitly. The method was applied to DNA sequence data from primates in order to evaluate the maximum likelihood branching order among Hominoidea. It was shown that, although the orangutan is convincingly placed as an outgroup of a human and African apes clade, the branching order among human, chimpanzee, and gorilla cannot be determined confidently from the DNA sequence data presently available when the evolutionary rate constancy is not assumed.
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              Accounting for calibration uncertainty in phylogenetic estimation of evolutionary divergence times.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                20525622
                10.1093/sysbio/syp079

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