Royal Society Publishing

Variance of molecular datings, evolution of rodents and the phylogenetic affinities between Ctenodactylidae and Hystricognathi

Dorothée Huchon, François M. Catzeflis, Emmanuel J. P. Douzery


The von Willebrand factor (vWF) gene has been used to understand the origin and timing of Rodentia evolution in the context of placental phylogeny. vWF exon 28 sequences of 15 rodent families and eight non–rodent eutherian clades are analysed with two different molecular dating methods (uniform clock on a linearized tree; quartet dating). Three main conclusions are drawn from the study of this nuclear exon. First, Ctenodactylidae (gundis) and Hystricognathi (e.g. porcupines, guinea–pigs, chinchillas) robustly cluster together in a newly recognized clade, named ‘Ctenohystrica’. The Sciurognathi monophyly is subsequently rejected. Pedetidae (springhares) is an independent and early diverging rodent lineage, suggesting a convergent evolution of the multiserial enamel of rodent incisors. Second, molecular date estimates are here more influenced by accuracy and choice of the palaeontological temporal references used to calibrate the molecular clock than by either characters analysed (nucleotides versus amino acids) or species sampling. The caviomorph radiation at 31 million years (Myr) and the pig–porpoise split at 63Myr appear to be reciprocally compatible dates. Third, during the radiation of Rodentia, at least three lineages (Gliridae, Sciuroidea and Ctenohystrica) emerged close to the Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary, and their common ancestor separated from other placental orders in the Late Cretaceous.