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For these reasons, molecular-based time estimates for many important divergences in the evolutionary history show notable differences not only with the estimates from the nonmolecular data (e.g., fossil record), but also from each other (e.g., refs. We have developed a method that is designed to avoid many of these problems and produces a relative time of divergence for every branching point in the phylogenetic tree.

This trend was clearly evident from a direct comparison of the true and estimated times (Fig. In this comparison, we normalized the Rel Time and true time estimates to vary on the same scale (0–1; ).

The method (Rel Time) performed better than existing methods when applied to very large computer simulated datasets where evolutionary rates were varied extensively among lineages by following autocorrelated and uncorrelated models.

On average, Rel Time completed calculations 1,000 times faster than the fastest Bayesian method, with even greater speed difference for larger number of sequences.

1) become directly comparable, with the ingroup ancestral node XY automatically assigned an average rate of 1.0.

In the next step, all of these rate estimates are refined by statistically testing the significance of the difference between the descendent branch and ancestral node pairs individually, such that the smallest number of rate parameters is estimated to avoid statistical overfitting and higher variances.

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