Ascomycota has a faster evolutionary rate and higher species diversity than Basidiomycota
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- Wang, H., Guo, S., Huang, M. et al. Sci. China Life Sci. (2010) 53: 1163. doi:10.1007/s11427-010-4063-8
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Differences in rates of nucleotide or amino acid substitutions among major groups of organisms are repeatedly found and well documented. A growing body of evidence suggests a link between the rate of neutral molecular change within populations and the evolution of species diversity. More than 98% of terrestrial fungi belong to the phyla Ascomycota or Basidiomycota. The former is considerably richer in number of species than the latter. We obtained DNA sequences of 21 protein-coding genes from the lichenized fungus Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca and used them together with sequences from GenBank for subsequent analyses. Three datasets were used to test rate discrepancies between Ascomycota and Basidiomycota and that within Ascomycota: (i) 13 taxa including 105 protein-coding genes, (ii) nine taxa including 21 protein-coding genes, and (iii) nuclear LSU rDNA of 299 fungal species. Based on analyses of the 105 protein-coding genes and nuclear LSU rDNA datasets, we found that the evolutionary rate was higher in Ascomycota than in Basidiomycota. The differences in substitution rates between Ascomycota and Basidiomycota were significant. Within Ascomycota, the species-rich Sordariomycetes has the fastest evolutionary rate, while Leotiomycetes has the slowest. Our results indicate that the main contribution to the higher substitution rates in Ascomycota does not come from mutualism, ecological conditions, sterility, metabolic rate or shorter generation time, but is possibly caused by the founder effect. This is another example of the correlation between species number and evolutionary rates, which is consistent with the hypothesis that the founder effect is responsible for accelerated substitution rates in diverse clades.