The linking of plate tectonics and evolutionary divergence
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It is exciting to be living at a time when the big questions in biology can be investigated using modern genetics and computing . Bauzà-Ribot et al. take on one of the fundamental drivers of biodiversity, the effect of continental drift in the formation of the world’s biota [3,4], employing next-generation sequencing of whole mitochondrial genomes and modern Bayesian relaxed molecular clock analysis. Bauzà-Ribot et al. conclude that vicariance via plate tectonics best explains the genetic divergence between subterranean metacrangonyctid amphipods currently found on islands separated by the Atlantic Ocean. This finding is a big deal in biogeography, and science generally , as many other presumed biotic tectonic divergences have been explained as probably due to more recent transoceanic dispersal events . However, molecular clocks can be problematic [5,6] and we have identified three issues with the analyses of Bauzà-Ribot et al. that cast serious doubt on their results and conclusions. When we reanalyzed their mitochondrial data and attempted to account for problems with calibration [5,6], modeling rates across branches [5,7] and substitution saturation , we inferred a much younger date for their key node. This implies either a later trans-Atlantic dispersal of these crustaceans, or more likely a series of later invasions of freshwaters from a common marine ancestor, but either way probably not ancient tectonic plate movements.
|Publication status||Published - 22 Jul 2013|