A molecular timescale for eukaryote evolution with implications for the origin of red algal-derived plastids

Jürgen F H Strassert, Iker Irisarri, Tom A Williams, Fabien Burki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

In modern oceans, eukaryotic phytoplankton is dominated by lineages with red algal-derived plastids such as diatoms, dinoflagellates, and coccolithophores. Despite the ecological importance of these groups and many others representing a huge diversity of forms and lifestyles, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of their evolution and how they obtained their plastids. New hypotheses have emerged to explain the acquisition of red algal-derived plastids by serial endosymbiosis, but the chronology of these putative independent plastid acquisitions remains untested. Here, we establish a timeframe for the origin of red algal-derived plastids under scenarios of serial endosymbiosis, using Bayesian molecular clock analyses applied on a phylogenomic dataset with broad sampling of eukaryote diversity. We find that the hypotheses of serial endosymbiosis are chronologically possible, as the stem lineages of all red plastid-containing groups overlap in time. This period in the Meso- and Neoproterozoic Eras set the stage for the later expansion to dominance of red algal-derived primary production in the contemporary oceans, which profoundly altered the global geochemical and ecological conditions of the Earth.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1879 (2021)
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • chloroplasts
  • molecular evolution
  • phylogenetics
  • symbiosis

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