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Osmunda pulchella sp. nov. from the Jurassic of Sweden—reconciling molecular and fossil evidence in the phylogeny of Osmundaceae

By Benjamin Bomfleur, Guido W. Grimm, Stephen McLoughlin

Posted 04 Jun 2014
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/005777 (published DOI: 10.1186/s12862-015-0400-7)

The systematic classification of Osmundaceae has long remained controversial. Recent molecular data indicate that Osmunda is paraphyletic, and needs to be separated into Osmundastrum and Osmunda s. str. Here we describe an exquisitely preserved Jurassic Osmunda rhizome (O. pulchella sp. nov.) that combines diagnostic features of Osmundastrum and Osmunda, calling molecular evidence for paraphyly into question. We assembled a new morphological matrix based on rhizome anatomy, and used network analyses to establish phylogenetic relationships between fossil and extant members of modern Osmundaceae. We re-analysed the original molecular data to evaluate root-placement support. Finally, we integrated morphological and molecular data-sets using the evolutionary placement algorithm. Osmunda pulchella and five additional, newly identified Jurassic Osmunda species show anatomical character suites intermediate between Osmundastrum and Osmunda. Molecular evidence for paraphyly is ambiguous: a previously unrecognized signal from spacer sequences favours an alternative root placement that would resolve Osmunda s.l. as monophyletic. Our evolutionary placement analysis identifies fossil species as ancestral members of modern genera and subgenera. Altogether, the seemingly conflicting evidence from morphological, anatomical, molecular, and palaeontological data can be elegantly reconciled under the assumption that Osmunda is indeed monophyletic; the recently proposed root-placement in Osmundaceae—based solely on molecular data—likely results from un- or misinformative out-group signals.

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