Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Assessing the usefulness of histone H3, U2 snRNA and 28S rDNA in analyses of polychaete relationships

S. Brown, G. Rouse, P. Hutchings and D. Colgan

Australian Journal of Zoology 47(5) 499 - 516
Published: 1999


DNA sequence data from for histone H3 (34 species), U2 snRNA (34 species) and two segments (D1 and D9–10 expansion regions) of 28S rDNA (28 and 26 species, respectively) have been collected to investigate the relationships of polychaetes. Representatives of all of the major morphologically identified clades were used, as well as members of the Sipuncula, Echiura, Turbellaria, Clitellata and Siboglinidae (formerly the phyla Pogonophora and Vestimentifera).

Maximum parsimony analyses of the separate data sets gave conflicting results and none conformed closely to previous results based on morphology. Instead each data set provided corroboration of a few of the morphological groupings, usually pairing, though inconsistently, members of the same family. Higher groupings proposed on morphological grounds were rarely recovered.

Maximum parsimony analysis of the combined data, excluding areas of uncertain alignment, recovered some morphological groupings such as Cirratulidae, Terebellidae, scale worms and eunicimorphs, and did not significantly contradict others. However, some expected groupings were not recovered. Surprisingly, the fanworms (Sabellidae and Serpulidae) were not shown as sister taxa, and monophyly of Phyllodocida, a morphologically well corroborated clade, required four more steps than most parsimonious trees. Aciculata was not seen in our analyses, although it was the most strongly supported large clade in Rouse and Fauchald (1997, Cladistics and polychaetes. Zoologica Scripta 26, 138–204). Trees constrained to show Aciculata as monophyletic were 18 steps longer than the most parsimonious trees. If trees are rooted on sipunculans rather than the nematode, Aciculata is nearly recovered, being rendered paraphyletic by the inclusion of the sister-pair of Oweniidae and Chaetopteridae.

As suggested by some recent morphological and molecular analyses, Siboglinidae and Clitellata may well have sister groups among polychaetes. The morphologically aberrant Sternaspidae are closest to members of Terebellida in the present analyses, supporting the placement of Rouse and Fauchald. Interesting results deserving further assessment concern the placement of Chaetopteridae, Oweniidae and Sipuncula.

© CSIRO 1999

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