A method for calibrating molecular clocks and its application to animal mitochondrial DNA

M. Lynch, P. E. Jarrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


A generalized least-squares procedure is introduced for the calibration of molecular clocks and applied to the complete mitochondrial DNA sequences of 13 animal species. The proposed technique accounts for both nonindependence and heteroscedasticity of molecular-distance data, problems that have not been taken into to account in such analyses in the past. When sequence- identity data are transformed to account for multiple substitutions/site, the molecular divergence scales linearly with time, but with substantially more variation in the substitution rate than expected under a Poisson model. Significant levels of divergence are predicted at zero divergence time for most loci, suggesting high levels of site-specific heterozygosity among mtDNA molecules establishing in sister taxa. For nearly all loci, the baseline heterozygosity is lower and the substitution rate is higher in mammals relative to other animals. There is considerable variation in the evolutionary rate among loci but no compelling evidence that the average rate of mtDNA evolution is elevated with respect to that of nuclear DNA. Using the observed patterns of interspecific divergence, empirical estimates are derived for the mean coalescence times of organelles colonizing sister taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1197-1208
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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