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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Jun 7;91(12):5730-4.

rbcL gene sequences provide evidence for the evolutionary lineages of leptosporangiate ferns.

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Botanical Gardens, Faculty of Science, University of Tokyo, Japan.


Pteriodophytes have a longer evolutionary history than any other vascular land plant and, therefore, have endured greater loss of phylogenetically informative information. This factor has resulted in substantial disagreements in evaluating characters and, thus, controversy in establishing a stable classification. To compare competing classifications, we obtained DNA sequences of a chloroplast gene. The sequence of 1206 nt of the large subunit of the ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase gene (rbcL) was determined from 58 species, representing almost all families of leptosporangiate ferns. Phlogenetic trees were inferred by the neighbor-joining and the parsimony methods. The two methods produced almost identical phylogenetic trees that provided insights concerning major general evolutionary trends in the leptosporangiate ferns. Interesting findings were as follows: (i) two morphologically distinct heterosporous water ferns, Marsilea and Salvinia, are sister genera; (ii) the tree ferns (Cyatheaceae, Dicksoniaceae, and Metaxyaceae) are monophyletic; and (iii) polypodioids are distantly related to the gleichenioids in spite of the similarity of their exindusiate soral morphology and are close to the higher indusiate ferns. In addition, the affinities of several "problematic genera" were assessed.

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