Rates of DNA sequence evolution differ between taxonomic groups

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Science  21 Mar 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4744, pp. 1393-1398
DOI: 10.1126/science.3082006


The mutation rates of DNA sequences during evolution can be estimated from interspecies DNA sequence differences by assaying changes that have little or no effect on the phenotype (neutral mutations). Examination of available measurements shows that rates of DNA change of different phylogenetic groups differ by a factor of 5. The slowest rates are observed for higher primates and some bird lineages, while faster rates are seen in rodents, sea urchins, and drosophila. The rate of DNA sequence change has decreased markedly during primate evolution. The contrast in rates of DNA sequence change is probably due to evolutionary variation and selection of biochemical mechanisms such as DNA replication or repair.

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