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Open Access Research article

Phylogenetic analyses of complete mitochondrial genome sequences suggest a basal divergence of the enigmatic rodent Anomalurus

David S Horner1, Konstantinos Lefkimmiatis24, Aurelio Reyes25, Carmela Gissi1, Cecilia Saccone23 and Graziano Pesole23*

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Scienze Biomolecolari e Biotecnologie, Università di Milano, Via Celoria 26, 20133 Milano, Italy

2 Istituto Tecnologie Biomediche, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, via Amendola 122/D, 70125 Bari, Italy

3 Dipartimento di Biochimica e Biologia Molecolare, Università di Bari, Via Orabona 4, 70126 Bari, Italy

4 Harvard Medical School, West Roxbury VAMC, West Roxbury, MA 02132, USA

5 MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Wellcome Trust/MRC Building, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0XY, UK

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-16

Published: 8 February 2007

Abstract

Background

Phylogenetic relationships between Lagomorpha, Rodentia and Primates and their allies (Euarchontoglires) have long been debated. While it is now generally agreed that Rodentia constitutes a monophyletic sister-group of Lagomorpha and that this clade (Glires) is sister to Primates and Dermoptera, higher-level relationships within Rodentia remain contentious.

Results

We have sequenced and performed extensive evolutionary analyses on the mitochondrial genome of the scaly-tailed flying squirrel Anomalurus sp., an enigmatic rodent whose phylogenetic affinities have been obscure and extensively debated. Our phylogenetic analyses of the coding regions of available complete mitochondrial genome sequences from Euarchontoglires suggest that Anomalurus is a sister taxon to the Hystricognathi, and that this clade represents the most basal divergence among sampled Rodentia. Bayesian dating methods incorporating a relaxed molecular clock provide divergence-time estimates which are consistently in agreement with the fossil record and which indicate a rapid radiation within Glires around 60 million years ago.

Conclusion

Taken together, the data presented provide a working hypothesis as to the phylogenetic placement of Anomalurus, underline the utility of mitochondrial sequences in the resolution of even relatively deep divergences and go some way to explaining the difficulty of conclusively resolving higher-level relationships within Glires with available data and methodologies.