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PLOS ONE  2007 

Dating Phylogenies with Hybrid Local Molecular Clocks

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000879

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Abstract:

Background Because rates of evolution and species divergence times cannot be estimated directly from molecular data, all current dating methods require that specific assumptions be made before inferring any divergence time. These assumptions typically bear either on rates of molecular evolution (molecular clock hypothesis, local clocks models) or on both rates and times (penalized likelihood, Bayesian methods). However, most of these assumptions can affect estimated dates, oftentimes because they underestimate large amounts of rate change. Principal Findings A significant modification to a recently proposed ad hoc rate-smoothing algorithm is described, in which local molecular clocks are automatically placed on a phylogeny. This modification makes use of hybrid approaches that borrow from recent theoretical developments in microarray data analysis. An ad hoc integration of phylogenetic uncertainty under these local clock models is also described. The performance and accuracy of the new methods are evaluated by reanalyzing three published data sets. Conclusions It is shown that the new maximum likelihood hybrid methods can perform better than penalized likelihood and almost as well as uncorrelated Bayesian models. However, the new methods still tend to underestimate the actual amount of rate change. This work demonstrates the difficulty of estimating divergence times using local molecular clocks.

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