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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Molecular systematics and paleobiogeography of the South American sigmodontine rodents.

The murid rodent subfamily Sigmodontinae contains 79 genera which are distributed throughout the New World. The time of arrival of the first sigmodontines in South America and the estimated divergence time(s) of the different lineages of South American sigmodontines have been controversial due to the lack of a good fossil record and the immense number of extant species. The "early-arrival hypothesis" states that the sigmodontines must have arrived in South America no later than the early Miocene, at least 20 MYA, in order to account for their vast present-day diversity, whereas the "late-arrival hypothesis" includes the sigmodontines as part of the Plio-Pleistocene Great American Interchange, which occurred approximately 3.5 MYA. The phylogenetic relationships among 33 of these genera were reconstructed using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence data from the ND3, ND4L, arginine tRNA, and ND4 genes, which we show to be evolving at the same rate. A molecular clock was calibrated for these genes using published fossil dates, and the genetic distances were estimated from the DNA sequences in this study. The molecular clock was used to estimate the dates of the South American sigmodontine origin and the main sigmodontine radiation in order to evaluate the "early-" and "late-arrival" scenarios. We estimate the time of the sigmodontine invasion of South America as between approximately 5 and 9 MYA, supporting neither of the scenarios but suggesting two possible models in which the invading lineage was either (1) ancestral to the oryzomyines, akodonts, and phyllotines or (2) ancestral to the akodonts and phyllotines and accompanied by the oryzomyines. The sigmodontine invasion of South America provides an example of the advantage afforded to a lineage by the fortuitous invasion of a previously unexploited habitat, in this case an entire continent.[1]


  1. Molecular systematics and paleobiogeography of the South American sigmodontine rodents. Engel, S.R., Hogan, K.M., Taylor, J.F., Davis, S.K. Mol. Biol. Evol. (1998) [Pubmed]
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