Phylogenomic analyses and improved resolution of Cetartiodactyla.
The remarkable antiquity, diversity, and significance in the ecology and evolution of Cetartiodactyla have inspired numerous attempts to resolve their phylogenetic relationships. However, previous analyses based on limited samples of nuclear genes or mitochondrial DNA sequences have generated results that were either inconsistent with one another, weakly supported, or highly sensitive to analytical conditions. Here, we present strongly supported results based upon over 1.4 Mb of an aligned DNA sequence matrix from 110 single-copy nuclear protein-coding genes of 21 Cetartiodactyla species, which represent major Cetartiodactyla lineages, and three species of Perissodactyla and Carnivora as outgroups. Phylogenetic analysis of this newly developed genomic sequence data using a codon-based model and recently developed models of the rate autocorrelation resolved the phylogenetic relationships of the major cetartiodactylan lineages and of those lineages with a high degree of confidence. Cetacea was found to nest within Artiodactyla as the sister group of Hippopotamidae, and Tylopoda was corroborated as the sole base clade of Cetartiodactyla. Within Cetacea, the monophyletic status of Odontoceti relative to Mysticeti, the basal position of Physeteroidea in Odontoceti, the non-monophyly of the river dolphins, and the sister relationship between Delphinidae and Monodontidae+Phocoenidae were strongly supported. In particular, the groups of Tursiops (bottlenose dolphins) and Stenella (spotted dolphins) were validated as unnatural groups. Additionally, a very narrow time frame of ∼3 My (million years) was found for the rapid diversification of delphinids in the late Miocene, which made it difficult to resolve the phylogenetic relationships within the Delphinidae, especially for previous studies with limited data sets. The present study provides a statistically well-supported phylogenetic framework of Cetartiodactyla, which represents an important step toward ending some of the often-heated, century-long debate on their evolution.