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Keywords:

  • dispersal;
  • Gondwana;
  • historical biogeography;
  • Laurasia;
  • morphological evolution;
  • Rectithecium;
  • Rhizofabroniaceae;
  • taxonomy;
  • vicariance analysis

The phylogenetic position and generic composition of the moss family Plagiotheciaceae were explored using DNA sequence data from three genomes: plastid trnL-F and rps4, mitochondrial nad5 intron and nuclear ITS1-5.8S-ITS2. Our phylogenetic analyses included 35 terminals from Plagiotheciaceae and 71 outgroup taxa from a representative set of hypnalean moss families. The family Plagiotheciaceae is resolved in the early-diverging Hypnales grade, together with Fontinalaceae, Habrodontaceae and several genera which are mainly distributed in the area of the former Gondwanan supercontinent. However, monophyly of the family can only be attained if the three Southern Hemisphere genera, Acrocladium, Catagonium and Rhizofabronia, are excluded. Ancestral state reconstruction for eight morphological characters reveals that many characters used to delimit the family, such as a lack of pseudoparaphyllia and rhizoids inserted in the leaf axils, were already present in the ancestor of Hypnales. Dispersal–vicariance analysis suggests that Plagiotheciaceae and Fontinalaceae have their ancestral distributions in the area of the former Laurasian supercontinent. As the analyses also reveal a Gondwanan distribution for the ancestor of Hypnales in general, Plagiotheciaceae and Fontinalaceae represent the first diverging Laurasian lineages in the order. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London