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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 24(6)

Evolution in the deep sea: a combined analysis of the earliest diverging living chitons (Mollusca : Polyplacophora : Lepidopleurida)

Julia D. Sigwart A F, Enrico Schwabe B, Hiroshi Saito C, Sarah Samadi D and Gonzalo Giribet E

A Queen’s University Belfast, School of Biological Science, Marine Laboratory, Portaferry, Northern Ireland, BT22 1PF, UK.
B Zoologische Staatssammlung, Mollusca Section, 81247 Munich, Germany.
C National Museum of Nature and Science, Department of Zoology, Tokyo 169-0073, Japan.
D Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Départment Systématique et Evolution, UMR7138 UPMC-IRD-MNHN-CNRS Paris 6, France.
E Museum of Comparative Zoology, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
F Corresponding author. Email: j.sigwart@qub.ac.uk

Invertebrate Systematics 24(6) 560-572 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/IS10028
Submitted: 23 September 2010  Accepted: 11 February 2011   Published: 29 April 2011

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Lepidopleurida is the earliest diverged group of living polyplacophoran molluscs. They are found predominantly in the deep sea, including sunken wood, cold seeps, other abyssal habitats, and a few species are found in shallow water. The group is morphologically identified by anatomical features of their gills, sensory aesthetes, and gametes. Their shell features closely resemble the oldest fossils that can be identified as modern polyplacophorans. We present the first molecular phylogenetic study of this group, and also the first combined phylogenetic analysis for any chiton, including three gene regions and 69 morphological characters. The results show that Lepidopleurida is unambiguously monophyletic, and the nine genera fall into five distinct clades, which partly support the current view of polyplacophoran taxonomy. The genus Hanleyella Sirenko, 1973 is included in the family Protochitonidae, and Ferreiraellidae constitutes another distinct clade. The large cosmopolitan genus Leptochiton Gray, 1847 is not monophyletic; Leptochiton and Leptochitonidae sensu stricto are restricted to North Atlantic and Mediterranean taxa. Leptochitonidae s. str. is sister to Protochitonidae. The results also suggest two separate clades independently inhabiting sunken wood substrates in the south-west Pacific. Antarctic and other chemosynthetic-dwelling species may be derived from wood-living species. Substantial taxonomic revision remains to be done to resolve lepidopleuran classification, but the phylogeny presented here is a dramatic step forward in clarifying the relationships within this interesting group.


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