The evolutionary history of ferns inferred from 25 low-copy nuclear genes.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Premise of the study

Understanding fern (monilophyte) phylogeny and its evolutionary timescale is critical for broad investigations of the evolution of land plants, and for providing the point of comparison necessary for studying the evolution of the fern sister group, seed plants. Molecular phylogenetic investigations have revolutionized our understanding of fern phylogeny, however, to date, these studies have relied almost exclusively on plastid data.•


Here we take a curated phylogenomics approach to infer the first broad fern phylogeny from multiple nuclear loci, by combining broad taxon sampling (73 ferns and 12 outgroup species) with focused character sampling (25 loci comprising 35877 bp), along with rigorous alignment, orthology inference and model selection.•

Key results

Our phylogeny corroborates some earlier inferences and provides novel insights; in particular, we find strong support for Equisetales as sister to the rest of ferns, Marattiales as sister to leptosporangiate ferns, and Dennstaedtiaceae as sister to the eupolypods. Our divergence-time analyses reveal that divergences among the extant fern orders all occurred prior to ∼200 MYA. Finally, our species-tree inferences are congruent with analyses of concatenated data, but generally with lower support. Those cases where species-tree support values are higher than expected involve relationships that have been supported by smaller plastid datasets, suggesting that deep coalescence may be reducing support from the concatenated nuclear data.•


Our study demonstrates the utility of a curated phylogenomics approach to inferring fern phylogeny, and highlights the need to consider underlying data characteristics, along with data quantity, in phylogenetic studies.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rothfels, CJ; Li, F-W; Sigel, EM; Huiet, L; Larsson, A; Burge, DO; Ruhsam, M; Deyholos, M; Soltis, DE; Stewart, CN; Shaw, SW; Pokorny, L; Chen, T; dePamphilis, C; DeGironimo, L; Chen, L; Wei, X; Sun, X; Korall, P; Stevenson, DW; Graham, SW; Wong, GK-S; Pryer, KM

Published Date

  • July 16, 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 102 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 1089 - 1107

PubMed ID

  • 26199366

Pubmed Central ID

  • 26199366

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-2197

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9122

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3732/ajb.1500089


  • eng