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Phylogenomics, origin and diversification of anthozoans (Phylum Cnidaria)


McFadden, Catherine et al. (2021), Phylogenomics, origin and diversification of anthozoans (Phylum Cnidaria), Dryad, Dataset,


Anthozoan cnidarians (corals and sea anemones) include some of the world's most important foundation species, capable of building massive reef complexes that support entire ecosystems. Although previous molecular phylogenetic analyses have revealed widespread homoplasy of the morphological characters traditionally used to define orders and families of anthozoans, analyses using mitochondrial genes or rDNA have failed to resolve many key nodes in the phylogeny. With a fully resolved, time-calibrated phylogeny for 234 species constructed from hundreds of ultraconserved elements and exon loci, we explore the evolutionary origins of the major clades of Anthozoa and some of their salient morphological features. The phylogeny supports reciprocally monophyletic Hexacorallia and Octocorallia, with Ceriantharia as the earliest diverging hexacorals; two reciprocally monophyletic clades of Octocorallia; and monophyly of all hexacoral orders with the exception of the enigmatic sea anemone Relicanthus daphneae. Divergence dating analyses place Anthozoa in the Cryogenian to Tonian periods (648–894 Ma), older than has been suggested by previous studies. Ancestral state reconstructions indicate that the ancestral anthozoan was a solitary polyp that had bilateral symmetry and lacked a skeleton. Colonial growth forms and the ability to precipitate calcium carbonate evolved in the Ediacaran (578 Ma) and Cambrian (503 Ma) respectively; these hallmarks of reef-building species have subsequently arisen multiple times independently in different orders. Anthozoans formed associations with photosymbionts by the Devonian (383 Ma), and photosymbioses have been gained and lost repeatedly in all orders. Together, these results have profound implications for interpretation of the Precambrian environment and the early evolution of metazoans.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1457817

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1457581