The Mitochondrial Genome of the Sperm Whale and a New Molecular Reference for Estimating Eutherian Divergence Dates
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Extant cetaceans are systematically divided into two suborders: Mysticeti (baleen whales) and Odontoceti (toothed whales). In this study, we have sequenced the complete mitochondrial (mt) genome of an odontocete, the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), and included it in phylogenetic analyses together with the previously sequenced complete mtDNAs of two mysticetes (the fin and blue whales) and a number of other mammals, including five artiodactyls (the hippopotamus, cow, sheep, alpaca, and pig). The most strongly supported cetartiodactyl relationship was: outgroup,((pig, alpaca),((cow, sheep),(hippopotamus,(sperm whale,(baleen whales))))). As in previous analyses of complete mtDNAs, the sister-group relationship between the hippopotamus and the whales received strong support, making both Artiodactyla and Suiformes (pigs, peccaries, and hippopotamuses) paraphyletic. In addition, the analyses identified a sister-group relationship between Suina (the pig) and Tylopoda (the alpaca), although this relationship was not strongly supported. The paleontological records of both mysticetes and odontocetes extend into the Oligocene, suggesting that the mysticete and odontocete lineages diverged 32–34 million years before present (MYBP). Use of this divergence date and the complete mtDNAs of the sperm whale and the two baleen whales allowed the establishment of a new molecular reference, O/M-33, for dating other eutherian divergences. There was a general consistency between O/M-33 and the two previously established eutherian references, A/C-60 and E/R-50. Cetacean (whale) origin, i.e., the divergence between the hippopotamus and the cetaceans, was dated to ≈55 MYBP, while basal artiodactyl divergences were dated to ≥65 MYBP. Molecular estimates of Tertiary eutherian divergences were consistent with the fossil record.
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