Evolution of Lycopodiaceae (Lycopsida): estimating divergence times from rbcL gene sequences by use of nonparametric rate smoothing

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2001 May;19(2):177-86. doi: 10.1006/mpev.2001.0936.


By use of nonparametric rate smoothing and nucleotide sequences of the rbcL gene, divergence times in Lycopodiaceae are estimated. The results show that much extant species diversity in Lycopodiaceae stems from relatively recent cladogenic events. These results corroborate previous ideas based on paleobotanical and biogeographical data. Previous molecular phylogenetic analyses recognized a split into neotropical and paleotropical clades in Huperzia, which contains 85-90% of all living species. Connecting this biogeographical pattern with continent movements, the diversification of this epiphytic group was suggested to coincide with that of angiosperms in the mid to Late Cretaceous. Results presented here are consistent with this idea, and the diversification of the two clades is resolved as Late Cretacous (78 and 95 Myr). In the related genera Lycopodium and Lycopodiella, the patterns are somewhat different. Here species diversity is scattered among different subgeneric groups. Most of the high-diversity subgeneric groups seem to have diversified very recently (Late Tertiary), whereas the cladogenic events leading to these groups are much older (Early to Late Cretaceous). Our analysis shows that, although much living species diversity stems from relatively recent cladogenesis, the origins of the family (Early Carboniferous) and generic crown groups (Early Permian to Early Jurassic) are much more ancient events.

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plants / classification
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase*
  • Time Factors


  • Plant Proteins
  • RbcL protein, plastid
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase