The Wilhelmine E. Key 2001 Invitational Lecture. Estimation of divergence times for a few mammalian and several primate species

J Hered. 2002 May-Jun;93(3):157-64. doi: 10.1093/jhered/93.3.157.


Statistical methods for estimating divergence times by using multiprotein gamma distances are discussed. When a large number of proteins are used, even a small degree of deviation from the molecular clock hypothesis can be detected. In this case, one may use the stem-lineage method for estimating divergence times. However, the estimates obtained by this method are often similar to those obtained by the linearized tree method. Application of these methods to a dataset of 104 proteins from several vertebrate species indicated that the divergence times between humans and mice and between mice and rats are about 96 and 33 million years (MY) ago, respectively. These estimates were obtained by assuming that birds and mammals diverged 310 MY ago. Similarly application of the methods to the protein sequence data from primate species indicated that the human lineage separated from the chimpanzee, gorilla, Old World monkeys, and New World monkeys about 6.0, 7.0, 23.0, and 33.0 MY ago, respectively. In this case the use of two calibration points, that is, the divergence time (13 MY ago) between humans and orangutans and between primates and artiodactyls (90 MY ago) gave essentially the same estimates.

Publication types

  • Lecture
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fossils
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Mammals / classification
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Primates / classification
  • Primates / genetics*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Time*
  • Vertebrates / classification
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Proteins