Nearly complete 28S rRNA gene sequences confirm new hypotheses of sponge evolution

Academic Article


  • The highly collaborative research sponsored by the NSF-funded Assembling the Porifera Tree of Life (PorToL) project is providing insights into some of the most difficult questions in metazoan systematics. Our understanding of phylogenetic relationships within the phylum Porifera has changed considerably with increased taxon sampling and data from additional molecular markers. PorToL researchers have falsified earlier phylogenetic hypotheses, discovered novel phylogenetic alliances, found phylogenetic homes for enigmatic taxa, and provided a more precise understanding of the evolution of skeletal features, secondary metabolites, body organization, and symbioses. Some of these exciting new discoveries are shared in the papers that form this issue of Integrative and Comparative Biology. Our analyses of over 300 nearly complete 28S ribosomal subunit gene sequences provide specific case studies that illustrate how our dataset confirms new hypotheses of sponge evolution. We recovered monophyletic clades for all 4 classes of sponges, as well as the 4 major clades of Demospongiae (Keratosa, Myxospongiae, Haploscleromorpha, and Heteroscleromorpha), but our phylogeny differs in several aspects from traditional classifications. In most major clades of sponges, families within orders appear to be paraphyletic. Although additional sampling of genes and taxa are needed to establish whether this pattern results from a lack of phylogenetic resolution or from a paraphyletic classification system, many of our results are congruent with those obtained from 18S ribosomal subunit gene sequences and complete mitochondrial genomes. These data provide further support for a revision of the traditional classification of sponges. © 2013 The Author.
  • Published In

  • American Zoologist  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Thacker RW; Hill AL; Hill MS; Redmond NE; Collins AG; Morrow CC; Spicer L; Carmack CA; Zappe ME; Pohlmann D
  • Start Page

  • 373
  • End Page

  • 387
  • Volume

  • 53
  • Issue

  • 3