Molecular clocks and evolutionary relationships: Possible distortions due to horizontal gene flow

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21 Scopus citations


This paper discusses recent evidence suggesting that genetic information from one species occasionally transfers to another remotely related species. Besides addressing the issue of whether or not the molecular data are consistent with a wide-spread influence of horizontal gene transfer, the paper shows that horizontal gene flow would not necessarily preclude a linear molecular clock or change the rate of molecular evolution (assuming the neutral allele theory). A pervasive influence of horizontal gene transfer is more than just consistent with the data of molecular evolution, it also provides a unique explanation for a number of possibly conflicting phylogenies and contradictory clocks. This phenomenon might explain why some protein clocks are linear while the superoxide dismutase clock is not, how the molecular data on the phylogeny of apes and Australian song birds are not necessarily in conflict with those based on morphology, and, finally, why the mycoplasmas have an accelerated molecular clock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 1987


  • Apes
  • Bacteria
  • Coadaptation
  • Cytochromes
  • Globin genes
  • Pseudogenes
  • Relative rate test
  • Songbirds
  • Viral host range
  • Viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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