Evidence for the most basal split in land plants dividing bryophyte and tracheophyte lineages
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The problem of relationships among the major basal living groups of land plants is long standing, yet the uncertainty as to the phylogenetic affinity of these lines persists in the literature. Molecular and modern cladistic studies of the phylogenetic relationships of the above groups resulted in a large number of conflicting topologies. However, with the exception of the cladistic analyses of spermatogenesis, suggesting monophyly of extant bryophytes, these studies agree the paraphyletic bryophyte grade is basal within the embryophyte tree. Here we would like to present analyses on the basis of the concatenated datasets of nucleotide and amino-acid sequences of 57 protein-coding genes common to 17 chloroplast genomes of land plants and a charophyte alga Chaetosphaeridium globosum. Character-wise, these are the largest datasets currently available to address the problem of basal relationships within embryophytes. Main lineages of bryophytes, i.e liverworts, hornworts and mosses are represented in our alignments with a single taxon, whereas 14 taxa represent the tracheophytes. With our data, phylogeny with liverwort basal appears to be and artifact related to high and unequal A+T contents among the sequences analysed. Reducing this compositional bias and applying methods developed to counter it, we recovered an alternative, strongly supported topology wherein both bryophytes and tracheophytes are monophyletic. Within bryophytes, hornworts are basal and liverworts are sister to mosses.
KeywordsBryophytes chloroplast genomes molecular evolution
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