An Evaluation of the Molecular Clock Hypothesis Using Mammalian DNA Sequences

J Mol Evol. 1987;25(4):330-42. doi: 10.1007/BF02603118.


A statistical analysis of extensive DNA sequence data from primates, rodents, and artiodactyls clearly indicates that no global molecular clock exists in mammals. Rates of nucleotide substitution in rodents are estimated to be four to eight times higher than those in higher primates and two to four times higher than those in artiodactyls. There is strong evidence for lower substitution rates in apes and humans than in monkeys, supporting the hominoid slowdown hypothesis. There is also evidence for lower rates in humans than in apes, suggesting a further rate slowdown in the human lineage after the separation of humans from apes. By contrast, substitution rates are nearly equal in mouse and rat. These results suggest that differences in generation time or, more precisely, in the number of germline DNA replications per year are the primary cause of rate differences in mammals. Further, these differences are more in line with the neutral mutation hypothesis than if the rates are the same for short- and long-living mammals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artiodactyla / genetics
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Genes*
  • Globins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Primates / genetics
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Rodentia / genetics
  • Species Specificity


  • Proteins
  • Globins
  • DNA