Molecular phylogeny of extant gymnosperms and seed plant evolution: Analysis of nuclear 18s rRNA sequences

Shu Miaw Chaw, Andrey Zharkikh, Huang Mo Sung, Tak Cheung Lau, Wen Hsiung Li

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230 Citations (Scopus)


To study the evolutionary relationships among the four living gymnosperm orders and the interfamilial relationships in each order, a set of 65 nuclear 18S rRNA sequences from ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms was analyzed using the neighbor-joining and maximum-parsimony methods. With Selaginella as the outgroup, the analysis strongly indicates that the seed plants form a monophyletic group with the ferns as a sister group. Within the seed plants the angiosperms are clearly a monophyletic group. Although the bootstrap support for the monophyly of the gymnosperm clade is moderate, the monophyly is further supported by its lack of angiosperm-specific indels. Within the gymnosperms there appear to be three monophyletic clades: Cycadales- Ginkgoales, Gnetales, and Coniferales. The cycad-ginkgo clade is the earliest gymnosperm lineage. Given the strong support for the sister group relationship between Gnetales and Coniferales, it is unlikely that Gnetales is a sister group of the angiosperms, contrary to the view of many plant taxonomists. Within Coniferales. Pinaceae is monophyletic and basal to the remaining conifer families, among which there are three monophyletic clades: Phyllocladaceae-Podocarpaceae, Araucariaceae, and Sciadopityaceae-Taxaceae- Cephalotaxaceae-Taxodiaceae-Cupressaceae. Within the latter clade, Sciadopityaceae may be an outgroup to the other four families. Among the angiosperms, no significant cluster at the level of subclass was found, but there was evidence that Nymphaeaceae branched off first. Within the remaining angiosperms, the monocots included in this study are nested and form a monophyletic group. This study attests to the utility of nuclear 18S rRNA sequences in addressing relationships among living gymnosperms. Considerable variation in substitution rates was observed among the ferns and seed plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-68
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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