Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Evolutionary Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

On the phylogeny of Mustelidae subfamilies: analysis of seventeen nuclear non-coding loci and mitochondrial complete genomes

Li Yu1*, Dan Peng1, Jiang Liu1, Pengtao Luan1, Lu Liang2, Hang Lee3, Muyeong Lee3, Oliver A Ryder4 and Yaping Zhang12*

Author affiliations

1 Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resource & Key Laboratory for Microbial Resources of the Ministry of Education, Yunnan University, Kunming, 650091, PR, China

2 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Kunming 650223, China

3 Conservation Genome Resource Bank for Korean Wildlife, Research Institute for Veterinary Science and Coll. of Vet. Med., Seoul National Univ., Seoul 151-742, South Korea

4 San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, Escondido, CA, USA 92027-7000

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:92  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-92

Published: 10 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Mustelidae, as the largest and most-diverse family of order Carnivora, comprises eight subfamilies. Phylogenetic relationships among these Mustelidae subfamilies remain argumentative subjects in recent years. One of the main reasons is that the mustelids represent a typical example of rapid evolutionary radiation and recent speciation event. Prior investigation has been concentrated on the application of different mitochondrial (mt) sequence and nuclear protein-coding data, herein we employ 17 nuclear non-coding loci (>15 kb), in conjunction with mt complete genome data (>16 kb), to clarify these enigmatic problems.

Results

The combined nuclear intron and mt genome analyses both robustly support that Taxidiinae diverged first, followed by Melinae. Lutrinae and Mustelinae are grouped together in all analyses with strong supports. The position of Helictidinae, however, is enigmatic because the mt genome analysis places it to the clade uniting Lutrinae and Mustelinae, whereas the nuclear intron analysis favores a novel view supporting a closer relationship of Helictidinae to Martinae. This finding emphasizes a need to add more data and include more taxa to resolve this problem. In addition, the molecular dating provides insights into the time scale of the origin and diversification of the Mustelidae subfamilies. Finally, the phylogenetic performances and limits of nuclear introns and mt genes are discussed in the context of Mustelidae phylogeny.

Conclusion

Our study not only brings new perspectives on the previously obscured phylogenetic relationships among Mustelidae subfamilies, but also provides another example demonstrating the effectiveness of nuclear non-coding loci for reconstructing evolutionary histories in a group that has undergone rapid bursts of speciation.