A molecular palaeobiological exploration of arthropod terrestrialization

Jesus Lozano-Fernandez, Robert Carton, Alastair R. Tanner, Mark N. Puttick, Mark Blaxter, Jakob Vinther, Jørgen Olesen, Gonzalo Giribet, Gregory D. Edgecombe, Davide Pisani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

105 Citations (SciVal)


Understanding animal terrestrialization, the process through which animals colonized the land, is crucial to clarify extant biodiversity and biological adaptation. Arthropoda (insects, spiders, centipedes and their allies) represent the largestmajority of terrestrial biodiversity.Herewe implemented amolecular palaeobiological approach, merging molecular and fossil evidence, to elucidate the deepest history of the terrestrial arthropods. We focused on the three independent, Palaeozoic arthropod terrestrialization events (those of Myriapoda, Hexapoda and Arachnida) and showed that a marine route to the colonization of land is the most likely scenario.Molecular clock analyses confirmed an origin for the three terrestrial lineages bracketed between the Cambrian and the Silurian. While molecular divergence times for Arachnida are consistent with the fossil record, Myriapoda are inferred to have colonized land earlier, substantially predating trace or body fossil evidence. An estimated origin of myriapods by the Early Cambrian precedes the appearance of embryophytes and perhaps even terrestrial fungi, raising the possibility that terrestrialization had independent origins in crown-group myriapod lineages, consistent with morphological arguments for convergence in tracheal systems. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Dating species divergences using rocks and clocks’.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150133
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1699
Early online date20 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2016


  • Arthropod evolution
  • Molecular clock
  • Molecular palaeobiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Terrestrialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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