Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 813–820 | Cite as

An evolutionary timescale for terrestrial isopods and a lack of molecular support for the monophyly of Oniscidea (Crustacea: Isopoda)

  • Luana S. F. LinsEmail author
  • Simon Y. W. Ho
  • Nathan Lo
Original Article


The marine metazoan fauna first diversified in the early Cambrian, but terrestrial environments were not colonized until at least 100 million years later. Among the groups of organisms that successfully colonized land is the crustacean order Isopoda. Of the 10,000 described isopod species, ~ 3,600 species from the suborder Oniscidea are terrestrial. Although it is widely thought that isopods colonized land only once, some studies have failed to confirm the monophyly of Oniscidea. To infer the evolutionary relationships among isopod lineages, we conducted phylogenetic analyses of nuclear 18S and 28S and mitochondrial COI genes using maximum-likelihood and Bayesian methods. We also analyzed a second data set comprising all of the mitochondrial protein-coding genes from a smaller sample of isopod taxa. Based on our analyses using a relaxed molecular clock, we dated the origin of terrestrial isopods at 289.5 million years ago (95% credibility interval 219.6–358.9 million years ago). These predate the known fossil record of these taxa and coincide with the formation of the supercontinent Pangaea and with the diversification of vascular plants on land. Our results suggest that the terrestrial environment has been colonized more than once by isopods. The monophyly of the suborder Oniscidea was not supported in any of our analyses, conflicting with classical views based on morphology. This draws attention to the need for further work on this group of isopods.


Isopods Oniscids Phylogeny Molecular clock 



This research was supported by a University of Sydney International Scholarship to LSFL. SYWH and NL were supported by the Australian Research Council. We thank George (Buz) Wilson for constructive advice throughout the course of this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Only invertebrates were used in this study, and ethical approval is not needed.

Supplementary material

13127_2017_346_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.3 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 2339 kb).


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luana S. F. Lins
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Simon Y. W. Ho
    • 1
  • Nathan Lo
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life and Environmental SciencesThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.Australian MuseumSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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