SINEs of progress: Mobile element applications to molecular ecology


David A. Ray, Fax: 304-293-6363; E-mail:


Mobile elements represent a unique and under-utilized set of tools for molecular ecologists. They are essentially homoplasy-free characters with the ability to be genotyped in a simple and efficient manner. Interpretation of the data generated using mobile elements can be simple compared to other genetic markers. They exist in a wide variety of taxa and are useful over a wide selection of temporal ranges within those taxa. Furthermore, their mode of evolution instills them with another advantage over other types of multilocus genotype data: the ability to determine loci applicable to a range of time spans in the history of a taxon. In this review, I discuss the application of mobile element markers, especially short interspersed elements (SINEs), to phylogenetic and population data, with an emphasis on potential applications to molecular ecology.