A global plastid phylogeny of the fern genus Asplenium (Aspleniaceae)


The infrageneric relationships and taxonomy of the largest fern genus, Asplenium (Aspleniaceae), have remained poorly understood. Previous studies have focused mainly on specific species complexes involving a few or dozens of species only, or have achieved a large taxon sampling but only one plastid marker was used. In the present study, DNA sequences from six plastid markers (atpB, rbcL, rps4, rps4-trnS, trnL and trnL-F) of 1030 accessions (616 of them newly sequenced here) representing c. 420 species of Asplenium (60% of estimated species diversity), 16 species of Hymenasplenium, three Diplaziopsidaceae, and four Rhachidosoraceae were used to produce the largest genus-level phylogeny yet for ferns. Our major results include: (i) Asplenium as broadly circumscribed is monophyletic based on our inclusion of representatives of 32 of 38 named segregate genera; (ii) 11 major clades in Asplenium are identified, and their relationships are mostly well-resolved and strongly supported; (iii) numerous species, unsampled in previous studies, suggest new relationships and numerous cryptic species and species complexes in Asplenium; and (iv) the accrued molecular evidence provides an essential foundation for further investigations of complex patterns of geographical diversification, speciation and reticulate evolution in this family.