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Žerdoner Čalasan, Anže; Kretschmann, Juliane; Gottschling, Marc (November 2019): They are young, and they are many: dating freshwater lineages in unicellular dinophytes. In: Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 21, No. 11: pp. 4125-4135
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Dinophytes are one of few protist groups that have an extensive fossil record and are therefore appropriate for time estimations. However, insufficient sequence data and strong rate heterogeneity have been hindering to put dinophyte evolution into a time frame until now. Marine‐to‐freshwater transitions within this group are considered geologically old and evolutionarily exceptional due to strong physiological constraints that prevent such processes. Phylogenies based on concatenated rRNA sequences (including 19 new GenBank entries) of two major dinophyte lineages, Gymnodiniaceae and Peridiniales, were carried out using an uncorrelated molecular clock and five calibration points based on fossils. Contrarily to previous assumptions, marine‐to‐freshwater transitions are more frequent in dinophytes (i.e. five marine‐freshwater transitions in Gymnodiniaceae, up to ten but seven strongly supported transitions in Peridiniales), and none of them occurred as early as 140 MYA. Furthermore, most marine‐to‐freshwater transitions, and the followed diversification, took place after the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary. Not older than 40 MYA, the youngest transitions within Gymnodiniaceae and Peridiniales occurred under the influence of the Eocene climate shift. Our evolutionary scenario indicates a gradual diversification of dinophytes without noticeable impact of catastrophic events, and their freshwater lineages have originated several times independently at different points in time.