Molecular phylogeny of Heteroplacidium, Placidium, and related catapyrenioid genera (Verrucariaceae, lichen-forming Ascomycota).

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Premise of the study

Verrucariaceae is a fascinating lineage of lichenized fungi for which generic and species delimitation is problematic due to the scarcity of discriminating morphological characters. Members of this family inhabit rocks, but they further colonize soils, barks, mosses, and other lichens. Our aim is to contribute to the DNA-based inference of the Verrucariaceae tree of life and to investigate characters that could be useful for proposing a more natural classification. We focused on catapyrenioid genera, which are often part of biological soil crusts, a cryptogam-dominated ecosystem contributing to soil formation and stabilization in arid environments. Understanding their evolution and taxonomy is essential to assess their roles in these fragile and important ecosystems.


A multigene phylogeny of Verrucariaceae including catapyrenioid genera is presented. We further examined the phylogenetic relationships among members of Heteroplacidium and Placidium. The evolution of selected characters was inferred using the latter phylogeny.

Key results

Anthracocarpon and Involucropyrenium were closely related to Endocarpon. Placidium comprised two monophyletic clades sister to Heteroplacidium. Inferred ancestral states of diagnostic characters revealed that the type of medulla and the pycnidia location were homoplasious within the Placidium clade. In contrast, the presence of rhizines was a synapomorphy for Clavascidium.


Our results provide new information on the usefulness of characters for delineating groups in Verrucariaceae. Taxonomic changes are proposed to reflect more natural groupings: Heteroplacidium podolepis is transferred to Placidium, and Clavascidium is recognized as a different genus. Eight new combinations are proposed for Clavascidium.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Prieto, M; Martínez, I; Aragón, G; Gueidan, C; Lutzoni, F

Published Date

  • January 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 99 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 23 - 35

PubMed ID

  • 22210842

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-2197

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9122

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3732/ajb.1100239


  • eng