Molecular and Paleontological Evidence for a Post-Cretaceous Origin of Rodents

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Molecular and Paleontological Evidence for a Post-Cretaceous Origin of Rodents

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Title: Molecular and Paleontological Evidence for a Post-Cretaceous Origin of Rodents
Author: Wu, Shaoyuan; Wu, Wenyu; Zhang, Fuchun; Ye, Jie; Ni, Xijun; Sun, Jimin; Edwards, Scott V.; Meng, Jin; Organ, Chris L.

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Citation: Wu, Shaoyuan, Wenyu Wu, Fuchun Zhang, Jie Ye, Xijun Ni, Jimin Sun, Scott V. Edwards, Jin Meng, and Chris L. Organ. 2012. Molecular and paleontological evidence for a post-cretaceous origin of rodents. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46445.
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Abstract: The timing of the origin and diversification of rodents remains controversial, due to conflicting results from molecular clocks and paleontological data. The fossil record tends to support an early Cenozoic origin of crown-group rodents. In contrast, most molecular studies place the origin and initial diversification of crown-Rodentia deep in the Cretaceous, although some molecular analyses have recovered estimated divergence times that are more compatible with the fossil record. Here we attempt to resolve this conflict by carrying out a molecular clock investigation based on a nine-gene sequence dataset and a novel set of seven fossil constraints, including two new rodent records (the earliest known representatives of Cardiocraniinae and Dipodinae). Our results indicate that rodents originated around 61.7–62.4 Ma, shortly after the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary, and diversified at the intraordinal level around 57.7–58.9 Ma. These estimates are broadly consistent with the paleontological record, but challenge previous molecular studies that place the origin and early diversification of rodents in the Cretaceous. This study demonstrates that, with reliable fossil constraints, the incompatibility between paleontological and molecular estimates of rodent divergence times can be eliminated using currently available tools and genetic markers. Similar conflicts between molecular and paleontological evidence bedevil attempts to establish the origination times of other placental groups. The example of the present study suggests that more reliable fossil calibration points may represent the key to resolving these controversies.
Published Version: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046445
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