Dating the diversification of the major lineages of Ascomycota (Fungi)

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 14;8(6):e65576. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065576. Print 2013.


Establishing the dates for the origin and main diversification events in the phylogeny of Ascomycota is among the most crucial remaining goals in understanding the evolution of Fungi. There have been several analyses of divergence times in the fungal tree of life in the last two decades, but most have yielded contrasting results for the origin of the major lineages. Moreover, very few studies have provided temporal estimates for a large set of clades within Ascomycota. We performed molecular dating to estimate the divergence times of most of the major groups of Ascomycota. To account for paleontological uncertainty, we included alternative fossil constraints as different scenarios to enable a discussion of the effect of selection of fossils. We used data from 6 molecular markers and 121 extant taxa within Ascomycota. Our various 'relaxed clock' scenarios suggest that the origin and diversification of the Pezizomycotina occurred in the Cambrian. The main lineages of lichen-forming Ascomycota originated at least as early as the Carboniferous, with successive radiations in the Jurassic and Cretaceous generating the diversity of the main modern groups. Our study provides new information about the timing of the main diversification events in Ascomycota, including estimates for classes, orders and families of both lichenized and non-lichenized Ascomycota, many of which had not been previously dated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amber / chemistry
  • Ascomycota / genetics*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Calibration
  • Fossils
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Markov Chains
  • Models, Genetic
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Multilocus Sequence Typing
  • Phylogeny


  • Amber
  • Genetic Markers

Grant support

This project was funded by the Swedish Research Council (grant VR 621–2009–5372 to MW). The authors thank the Swedish Museum of Natural History for providing complementary facilities. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.