A PHYLOGENETIC STUDY OF THE CORALLINALES (RHODOPHYTA) BASED ON NUCLEAR SMALL-SUBUNIT rRNA GENE SEQUENCES

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Abstract

Conflicting classifications for the Corallinales were tested by analyzing partial sequences for the nuclear small-subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU) gene of 35 species of coralline algae. Parsimony and likelihood analyses of these data yielded congruent hypotheses that are inconsistent with classifications for the group that include as many as eight subfamilies. Four major clades are resolved within the order, including the early-diverging Sporolithaceae as well as the Melobesioideae and Corallinoideae. The fourth clade, which is supported robustly, includes both nongeniculate and geniculate species classified in the subfamilies Mastophoroideae, Metagoniolithoideae, Lithophylloideae, and Amphiroideae. Molecular and morphological data support the proposal that the latter two subfamilies are sister taxa. Although relationships among some genera are not resolved clearly, the order of branching of taxa among and within the four principal lineages is concordant with paleontological evidence for the group. Relationships inferred among genera within each of the clades is discussed. Seven morphological characters delimiting higher taxonomic groups within the order were combined with the sequence data, analyzed, and optimized onto the resulting tree(s). Except for the presence or absence of genicula, all other characters were found to be phylogenetically informative. Genicula are nonhomologous structures that evolved independently in the Amphiroideae, Corallinoideae, and Metagoniolithoideae. The phenetic practice of separating coralline algae into two categories solely on the basis of the presence or absence of genicula does not accurately reflect the evolutionary history of the group.

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