Mutation rate is linked to diversification in birds

Robert Lanfear, Simon Y. W. Ho, Dominic Love, Lindell Bromham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


How does genome evolution affect the rate of diversification of biological lineages? Recent studies have suggested that the overall rate of genome evolution is correlated with the rate of diversification. If true, this claim has important consequences for understanding the process of diversification, and implications for the use of DNA sequence data to reconstruct evolutionary history. However, the generality and cause of this relationship have not been established. Here, we test the relationship between the rate of molecular evolution and net diversification with a 19-gene, 17-kb DNA sequence dataset from 64 families of birds. We show that rates of molecular evolution are positively correlated to net diversification in birds. Using a 7.6-kb dataset of protein-coding DNA, we show that the synonymous substitution rate, and therefore the mutation rate, is correlated to net diversification. Further analysis shows that the link between mutation rates and net diversification is unlikely to be the indirect result of correlations with life-history variables that may influence both quantities, suggesting that there might be a causal link between mutation rates and net diversification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20423-20428
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • avian
  • speciation
  • divergence
  • reproductive isolation
  • hybrid incompatibility

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