Divergence time estimation of Galliformes based on the best gene shopping scheme of ultraconserved elements

Published: 5 August 2021| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/gcwxcmysw7.1
De Chen


Abstract Background Divergence time estimation is fundamental to understanding many aspects of the evolution of organisms, such as character evolution, diversification, and biogeography. With the development of sequence technology, improved analytical methods, and knowledge of fossils for calibration, it is possible to obtain robust molecular dating results. However, while phylogenomic datasets show great promise in phylogenetic estimation, the best ways to leverage the large amounts of data for divergence time estimation has not been well explored. A potential solution is to focus on a subset of data for divergence time estimation, which can significantly reduce the computational burdens and avoid problems with data heterogeneity that may bias results. Results In this study, we obtained thousands of ultraconserved elements (UCEs) from 130 extant galliform taxa, including representatives of all genera, to determine the divergence times throughout galliform history. We tested the effects of different “gene shopping” schemes on divergence time estimation using a carefully, and previously validated, set of fossils. Our results found commonly used clock-like schemes may not be suitable for UCE dating (or other data types) where some loci have little information. We suggest use of partition (e.g., PartitionFinder) and selection of tree-like partitions, may be a good strategy to select a subset of data for divergence time estimation from UCEs. Our galliform time tree is largely consistent with other molecular clock studies of mitochondrial and nuclear loci. With our increased taxon sampling, a well-resolved topology, carefully vetted fossil calibrations, and suitable molecular dating methods, we obtained a high quality galliform time tree. Conclusions The updated galliform time tree provides a robust backbone time tree that can be combined with more fossil records to further facilitate our understanding for the evolution of Galliformes and as a resource for many comparative and biogeographic studies in this group.