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posted 28. March 2002 21:38
PNAS published March 26, 2002, 10.1073/pnas.032087199
Rate heterogeneity among lineages of tracheophytes: Integration of molecular and fossil data and evidence for molecular living fossils
by Pamela S. Soltis, Douglas E. Soltis, Vincent Savolainen, Peter R. Crane, and Timothy G. Barraclough
Abstract: Many efforts to date evolutionary divergences by using a molecular clock have yielded age estimates that are grossly inconsistent with the paleontological evidence. Such discrepancies often are attributed to the inadequacy of the fossil record, but many potential sources of error can affect molecular-based estimates. In this study, we minimize the potential error caused by inaccurate topology and uncertain calibration times by using a well-supported tree, multiple genes, and multiple well-substantiated dates to explore the correspondence between the fossil record and molecular-based age estimates for major clades of tracheophytes. Age estimates varied because of gene effects, codon position, lineage effects, method of inferring branch lengths, and whether or not rate constancy was assumed. However, even methods designed to ameliorate the effects of rate heterogeneity among lineages could not accommodate the substantially slower rates observed in Marattia + Angiopteris and in the tree ferns. Both of these clades of ferns have undergone dramatic decelerations in their rates of molecular evolution and are "molecular living fossils," consistent with their relative morphological stasis for the past 165-200 million years. Similar discrepancies between the fossil record and molecular-based age estimates noted in other studies may also be explained in part by violations of rate constancy among lineages.
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