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Letters to Nature
Nature 381, 597 - 600 (13 June 1996); doi:10.1038/381597a0

The guinea-pig is not a rodent

Anna Maria D'Erchia*, Carmela Gissi*, Graziano Pesole, Cecilia Saccone*§ & Ulfur Arnason

*Dipartimento di Biochimica e Biologia Molecolare, Università di Bari, 70125 Bari, Italy
Department of Evolutionary Molecular Systematics, University of Lund, Sölvegatan 29, S-22362 Lund, Sweden
Dipartimento di Biologia DBAF, Università della Basilicata, 30100 Potenza, Italy
§Centra di Studio sui Mitocondri e Metabolismo Energetico,Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 70125 Bari, Italy

IN 1991 Graur et al. raised the question of whether the guinea-pig, Cavia porcellus, is a rodent1. They suggested that the guinea-pig and myomorph rodents diverged before the separation between myomorph rodents and a lineage leading to primates and artiodactyls. Several findings have since been reported, both for and against this phylogeny, thereby highlighting the issue of the validity of molecular analysis in mammalian phylogeny. Here we present findings based on the sequence of the complete mitochondrial genome of the guinea-pig, which strongly contradict rodent monophyly. The conclusions are based on the cumulative evidence provided by orthologically inherited genes and the use of three different analytical methods, none of which joins the guinea-pig with myomorph rodents. In addition to the phylogenetic conclusions, we also draw attention to several factors that are important for the validity of phylogenetic analysis based on molecular data.

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