Continental drift and speciation of the Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii species complexes

Arturo Casadevall, Joudeh B. Freij, Christopher Hann-Soden, John Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Genomic analysis has placed the origins of two human-pathogenic fungi, the Cryptococcus gattii species complex and the Cryptococcus neoformans species complex, in South America and Africa, respectively. Molecular clock calculations suggest that the two species separated ~80 to 100 million years ago. This time closely approximates the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea, which gave rise to South America and Africa. On the basis of the geographic distribution of these two species complexes and the coincidence of the evolutionary divergence and Pangea breakup times, we propose that a spatial separation caused by continental drift resulted in the emergence of the C. gattii and C. neoformans species complexes from a Pangean ancestor. We note that, despite the spatial and temporal separation that occurred approximately 100 million years ago, these two species complexes are morphologically similar, share virulence factors, and cause very similar diseases. Continuation of these phenotypic characteristics despite ancient separation suggests the maintenance of similar selection pressures throughout geologic ages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00103-17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Evolution
  • Fungus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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