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Complete mitochondrial genomes from four subspecies of common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): New inferences about mitochondrial rate heterogeneity, neutral theory, and phylogenetic relationships within the order Passeriformes

H. Dawn Marshall, Allan J. Baker, Allison R. Grant
Gene 2013 v.517 pp. 37-45
Carduelis, Emberiza, NADH dehydrogenase, Paridae, birds, fish, genes, genetic variation, humans, mitochondrial DNA, nucleotide sequences, paraphyly
We describe whole mitochondrial genome sequences from four subspecies of the common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), and compare them to 31 publicly available mitochondrial genome sequences from other Passeriformes. Rates and patterns of mitochondrial gene evolution are analyzed at different taxonomic levels within this avian order, and evidence is adduced for and against the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution and the role of positive selection in shaping genetic variation of this small but critical genome. We find evidence of mitochondrial rate heterogeneity in birds as in other vertebrates, likely due to differences in mutational pressure across the genome. Unlike in gadine fish and some of the human mitochondrial work we do not observe strong support for the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution; instead evidence from molecular clocks, distribution of dN/dS ratios at different levels of the taxonomic hierarchy and in different lineages, McDonald–Kreitman tests within Fringillidae, and site-specific tests of selection within Passeriformes, all point to a role for positive selection, especially for the complex I NADH dehydrogenase genes. The protein-coding mitogenome phylogeny of the order Passeriformes is broadly consistent with previously-reported molecular findings, but provides support for a sister relationship between the superfamilies Muscicapoidea and Passeroidea on a short basal internode of the Passerida where relationships have been difficult to resolve. An unexpected placement of the Paridae (represented by Hume's groundpecker) within the Muscicapoidea was observed. Consistent with other molecular studies the mtDNA phylogeny reveals paraphyly within the Muscicapoidea and a sister relationship of Fringilla with Carduelis rather than Emberiza.