Most Cephalaspidea have a shell, but transcriptomes can provide them with a backbone (Gastropoda: Heterobranchia)

Vanessa L. Knutson, Bastian Brenzinger, Michael Schrödl, Nerida G. Wilson, Gonzalo Giribet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)


Cephalaspidea is an order of marine gastropods found worldwide, often in sandy or muddy habitats, which has a convoluted taxonomic history based on convergent or ill-defined morphological characters. The cephalaspidean shell—which can be external and robust, internal, or altogether absent in the adult—is of particular interest in this group, and a well-resolved phylogeny can give us greater insight into the evolution of this character. Molecular data have clarified many relationships within Cephalaspidea, but studies involving few Sanger sequenced phylogenetic markers remain limited in the resolution they provide. Here we take a phylogenomic approach, the first to address internal cephalaspidean relationships, sequencing and assembling transcriptomes de novo from 22 ingroup taxa—representing the five currently accepted superfamilies, 10 of the 21 currently recognized families, and 21 genera—and analyzing these along with publicly available data. We generated two main datasets varying by a minimum taxon occupancy threshold (50% and 75%), and analyzed these using maximum likelihood, Bayesian inference and a coalescence-based method. We find a consistent, well-supported topology, with full support across most nodes including at the family and genus level, which also appears to be robust to the effect of compositional heterogeneity among amino acids in the dataset. Our analyses find Newnesioidea as the sister group to the rest of Cephalaspidea. Within the rest of the order, Philinoidea is the sister group to a clade that comprises (Bulloidea (Haminoeoidea, Cylichnoidea)). There is strong support for several previously suggested, but tenuously supported relationships such as the genus Odontoglaja nesting within the family Aglajidae, and a sister group relationship between Gastropteridae and Colpodaspididae, with Philinoglossidae as their sister group. We discuss these results and their implications in the context of current cephalaspidean taxonomy and evolution. Genomic-scale data give a backbone to this group of snails and slugs, and hold promise for a completely resolved Cephalaspidea.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106943
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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