Tree ferns: monophyletic groups and their relationships as revealed by four protein-coding plastid loci.

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Tree ferns are a well-established clade within leptosporangiate ferns. Most of the 600 species (in seven families and 13 genera) are arborescent, but considerable morphological variability exists, spanning the giant scaly tree ferns (Cyatheaceae), the low, erect plants (Plagiogyriaceae), and the diminutive endemics of the Guayana Highlands (Hymenophyllopsidaceae). In this study, we investigate phylogenetic relationships within tree ferns based on analyses of four protein-coding, plastid loci (atpA, atpB, rbcL, and rps4). Our results reveal four well-supported clades, with genera of Dicksoniaceae (sensu ) interspersed among them: (A) (Loxomataceae, (Culcita, Plagiogyriaceae)), (B) (Calochlaena, (Dicksonia, Lophosoriaceae)), (C) Cibotium, and (D) Cyatheaceae, with Hymenophyllopsidaceae nested within. How these four groups are related to one other, to Thyrsopteris, or to Metaxyaceae is weakly supported. Our results show that Dicksoniaceae and Cyatheaceae, as currently recognised, are not monophyletic and new circumscriptions for these families are needed.





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Korall, P, KM Pryer, JS Metzgar, H Schneider and DS Conant (2006). Tree ferns: monophyletic groups and their relationships as revealed by four protein-coding plastid loci. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 39(3). pp. 830–845. 10.1016/j.ympev.2006.01.001 Retrieved from

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Kathleen M. Pryer

Professor of Biology

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