Resolution of phylogenetic relationships among recently evolved species as a function of amount of DNA sequence: An empirical study based on woodpeckers (Aves: Picidae)

Victor R. DeFilippis, William S. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Scopus citations


Synonymous substitutions in the 13 mitochondrial encoded protein genes form a large pool of characters that should approach the ideal for phylogenetic analysis of being independently and identically distributed. Pooling sequences from multiple mitochondrial protein-coding genes should result in statistically more powerful estimates of relationships among species that diverged sufficiently recently that most nucleotide substitutions are synonymous. Cytochrome oxidase I (COI) was sequenced for woodpecker species for which cytochrome b (cyt b) sequences were available. A pairing-design test based on the normal distribution indicated that cyt b evolves more rapidly than COI when all nucleotides are compared but their rates are equal for synonymous substitutions. Nearly all of the phylogenetically informative substitutions among woodpeckers are synonymous. Statistical support for relationships, as measured by bootstrap proportions, increased as the number of nucleotides increased from 1047 (cyt b) to 1512 (COI) to 2559 nucleotides (aggregate data set). Pseudo-bootstrap replicates showed the same trend and increasing the amount of sequence beyond the actual length of 2559 nucleotides to 5120 (2x) resulted in stronger bootstrap support, even though the amount phylogenetic information was the same. However, the amount of sequence required to resolve an internode depends on the length of the internode and its depth in the phylogeny.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-160
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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