Journal: Systematic Biology
Volume: 53
Pages: 496-505


We present a phylogenetic dating of asterids, based on a 111-taxon tree representing all major groups and orders and 83 of the 102 families of asterids, with an underlying data set comprising six chloroplast DNA markers totaling 9914 positions. Phylogenetic dating was done with semiparametric rate smoothing by penalized likelihood. Confidence intervals were calculated by bootstrapping. Six reference fossils were used for calibration. To explore the effects of various sources of error, we repeated the analyses with alternative dating methods (nonparametric rate smoothing and the Langley-Fitch clock-based method), alternative tree topologies, reduced taxon sampling (22 of the 111 taxa deleted), partitioning the data into three genes and three noncoding regions, and calibrating with single reference fossils. The analyses with alternative topologies, reduced taxon sampling, and coding versus noncoding sequences all yielded small or in some cases no deviations. The choice of method influenced the age estimates of a few nodes considerably. Calibration with reference fossils is a critical issue, and use of single reference fossils yielded different results depending on the fossil. The bootstrap confidence intervals were generally small. Our results show that asterids and their major subgroups euasterids, campanulids, and lamiids diversified during the Early Cretaceous. Cornales, Ericales, and Aquifoliales also have crown node ages from the Early Cretaceous. Dipsacales and Solanales are from the Mid-Cretaceous, the other orders of core campanulids and core lamiids from the Late Cretaceous. The considerable diversity exhibited by asterids almost from their first appearance in the fossil record also supports an origin and first phase of diversification in the Early Cretaceous.