RelTime Rates Collapse to a Strict Clock When Estimating the Timeline of Animal Diversification.
1320 - 1328
Genome Biol Evol
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Establishing an accurate timescale for the history of life is crucial to understand evolutionary processes. For this purpose, relaxed molecular clock models implemented in a Bayesian MCMC framework are generally used. However, these methods are time consuming. RelTime, a non-Bayesian method implementing a fast, ad hoc, algorithm for relative dating, was developed to overcome the computational inefficiencies of Bayesian software. RelTime was recently used to investigate the timing of origin of animals, yielding results consistent with early strict clock studies from the 1980s and 1990s, estimating metazoans to have a Mesoproterozoic origin-over a billion years ago. RelTime results are unexpected and disagree with the largest majority of modern, relaxed, Bayesian molecular clock analyses, which suggest animals originated in the Tonian-Cryogenian (less that 850 million years ago). Here, we demonstrate that RelTime-inferred divergence times for the origin of animals are spurious, a consequence of the inability of RelTime to relax the clock along the internal branches of the animal phylogeny. RelTime-inferred divergence times are comparable to strict-clock estimates because they are essentially inferred under a strict clock. Our results warn us of the danger of using ad hoc algorithms making implicit assumptions about rate changes along a tree. Our study roundly rejects a Mesoproterozoic origin of animals; metazoans emerged in the Tonian-Cryogenian, and diversified in the Ediacaran, in the immediate prelude to the routine fossilization of animals in the Cambrian associated with the emergence of readily preserved skeletons.
AuthorsLozano-Fernandez, J; Dos Reis, M; Donoghue, PCJ; Pisani, D
- College Publications