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A Plastid Phylogeny of the Cosmopolitan Fern Family Cystopteridaceae (Polypodiopsida)

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Among the novel results of recent molecular phylogenetic analyses are the unexpectedly close evolutionary relationships of the genera Acystopteris, Cystopteris, and Gymnocarpium, and the phylogenetic isolation of these genera from Woodsia. As a consequence, these three genera have been removed from Woodsiaceae and placed into their own family, the Cystopteridaceae. Despite the ubiquity of this family in rocky habitats across the northern hemisphere, and its cosmopolitan distribution (occurring on every continent except Antarctica), sampling of the Cystopteridaceae in phylogenetic studies to date has been sparse. Here we assemble a three-locus plastid dataset (matK, rbcL, trnG-R) that includes most recognized species in the family and multiple accessions of widespread taxa from across their geographic ranges. All three sampled genera are robustly supported as monophyletic, Cystopteris is strongly supported as sister to Acystopteris, and those two genera together are sister to Gymnocarpium. The Gymnocarpium phylogeny is deeply divided into three major clades, which we label the disjunctum clade, the robertianum clade, and core Gymnocarpium. The Cystopteris phylogeny, similarly, features four deeply diverged clades: C. montana, the sudetica clade, the bulbifera clade, and the fragilis complex. Acystopteris includes only three species, each of which is supported as monophyletic, with A. taiwaniana sister to the japonica/tenuisecta clade. Our results yield the first species-level phylogeny of the Cystopteridaceae and the first molecular phylogenetic evidence for species boundaries. These data provide an essential foundation for further investigations of complex patterns of geographic diversification, speciation, and reticulation in this family.
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Keywords: Cosmopolitan species; Cystopteris; Gymnocarpium; fern phylogeny; intralinkage incongruence; species complex

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2013

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