Using a new fossil-calibrated mitogenome-based approach, we identified macroevolutionary shifts in mitochondrial gene order among the freshwater mussels (Unionoidea). We show that the early Mesozoic divergence of the two Unionoidea clades, Margaritiferidae and Unionidae, was accompanied by a synchronous split in the gene arrangement in the female mitogenome (i.e., gene orders MF1 and UF1). Our results suggest that this macroevolutionary jump was completed within a relatively short time interval (95% HPD 201-226 Ma) that coincided with the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction. Both gene orders have persisted within these clades for ~200 Ma. The monophyly of the so-called "problematic" Gonideinae taxa was supported by all the inferred phylogenies in this study using, for the first time, the M- and F-type mitogenomes either singly or combined. Within Gonideinae, two additional splits in the gene order (UF1 to UF2, UF2 to UF3) occurred in the Mesozoic and have persisted for ~150 and ~100 Ma, respectively. Finally, the mitogenomic results suggest ancient connections between freshwater basins of East Asia and Europe near the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, probably via a continuous paleo-river system or along the Tethys coastal line, which are well supported by at least three independent but almost synchronous divergence events.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.