Phylogenetic tree of vascular plants reveals the origins of aquatic angiosperms

China Phylogeny Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Although aquatic plants are discussed as a unified biological group, they are phylogenetically well dispersed across the angiosperms. In this study, we annotated the aquatic taxa on the tree of vascular plants, and extracted the topology of these aquatic lineages to construct the tree of aquatic angiosperms. We also reconstructed the ancestral areas of aquatic families. We found that aquatic angiosperms could be divided into two different categories: the four aquatic orders and the aquatic taxa in terrestrial orders. Aquatic lineages evolved early in the radiation of angiosperms, both in the orders Nymphaeales and Ceratophyllales and among basal monocots (Acorales and Alismatales). These aquatic orders do not have any extant terrestrial relatives. They originated from aquatic habitats during the Early Cretaceous. Asia would have been one of the centers for early diversification of aquatic angiosperms. The aquatic families within terrestrial orders may originate from other areas besides Asia, such as America or Australia. The lineages leading to extant angiosperms diversified early in underexploited freshwater habitats. The four extant aquatic orders were relicts of an early radiation of angiosperm in aquatic environments. Their extinct ancestors might be aquatic early angiosperms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-348
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Systematics and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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