Molecular evidence on plant divergence times

Michael J. Sanderson, Jeffrey L. Thorne, Niklas Wikström, Kåre Bremer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

237 Scopus citations


Estimation of divergence times from sequence data has become increasingly feasible in recent years. Conflicts between fossil evidence and molecular dates have sparked the development of new methods for inferring divergence times, further encouraging these efforts. In this paper, available methods for estimating divergence times are reviewed, especially those geared toward handling the widespread variation in rates of molecular evolution observed among lineages. The assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses of local clock, Bayesian, and rate smoothing methods are described. The rapidly growing literature applying these methods to key divergence times in plant evolutionary history is also reviewed. These include the crown group ages of green plants, land plants, seed plants, angiosperms, and major subclades of angiosperms. Finally, attempts to infer divergence times are described in the context of two very different temporal settings: recent adaptive radiations and much more ancient biogeographic patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1656-1665
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Biogeography
  • Divergence time
  • Molecular clock
  • Phylogeny
  • Rates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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