Understanding the early evolution of placental mammals is one of the most challenging issues in mammalian phylogeny. Here, we addressed this question by using the sequence data of the ENCODE consortium, which include 1% of mammalian genomes in 18 species belonging to all main mammalian lineages. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on an unprecedented amount of coding sequences taken from 218 genes resulted in a highly supported tree placing the root of Placentalia between Afrotheria and Exafroplacentalia (Afrotheria hypothesis). This topology was validated by the phylogenetic analysis of a new class of genomic phylogenetic markers, the conserved noncoding sequences. Applying the tests of alternative topologies on the coding sequence dataset resulted in the rejection of the Atlantogenata hypothesis (Xenarthra grouping with Afrotheria), while this test rejected the second alternative scenario, the Epitheria hypothesis (Xenarthra at the base), when using the noncoding sequence dataset. Thus, the two datasets support the Afrotheria hypothesis; however, none can reject both of the remaining topological alternatives.
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