Molecular data from 27 proteins do not support a Precambrian origin of land plants

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93 Scopus citations


Heckman et al. (Science 293: 1129-1133) used sequences obtained from GenBank to infer divergence times in fungi and green plants. They estimated that the crown group of land plants originated in the Precambrian, at 703 ± 45 mya, a date much older than dates implied by the fossils, which are no older than about 450 mya. This paper presents an analysis of an entirely different set of sequence data from 27 plastid protein-coding genes in 10 land plants and a green algal outgroup. It uses a calibration point closer to the origin of land plants and inference methods that do not assume a molecular clock. This leads to estimates ranging from 425 to 490 mya, which brackets the age suggested by the fossil record. Possible explanations for the differing conclusions in the two studies include differences in calibration points and use of single-copy plastid genes rather than nuclear gene families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)954-956
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003


  • Divergence times
  • Land plants
  • Molecular clock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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