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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 Jun;43(3):833-51. Epub 2006 Sep 27.

The phylogeny of the social Anelosimus spiders (Araneae: Theridiidae) inferred from six molecular loci and morphology.

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  • 1The University of British Columbia, Department of Zoology, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


We use fragments of three nuclear genes (Histone 3, 18SrDNA, and 28SrDNA) and three mitochondrial genes (16SrDNA, ND1, and COI) totalling approximately 4.5kb, in addition to morphological data, to estimate the phylogenetic relationships among Anelosimus spiders, well known for their sociality. The analysis includes 67 individuals representing 23 of the 53 currently recognized Anelosimus species and all species groups previously recognized by morphological evidence. We analyse the data using Bayesian, maximum likelihood, and parsimony methods, considering the genes individually as well as combined (mitochondrial, nuclear, and both combined) in addition to a 'total evidence' analysis including morphology. Most of the data partitions are congruent in agreeing on several fundamental aspects of the phylogeny, and the combined molecular data yield a tree broadly similar to an existing morphological hypothesis. We argue that such congruence among data partitions is an important indicator of support that may go undetected by standard robustness estimators. Our results strongly support Anelosimus monophyly, and the monophyly of the recently revised American 'eximius lineage', although slightly altered by excluding A. pacificus. There was consistent support for the scattering of American Anelosimus species in three clades suggesting intercontinental dispersal. Several recently described species are reconstructed as monophyletic, supporting taxonomic decisions based on morphology and behaviour in this taxonomically difficult group. Corroborating previous results from morphology, the molecular data suggest that social species are scattered across the genus and thus that sociality has evolved multiple times, a significant finding for exploring the causes and consequences of social evolution in this group of organisms.

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