Arthropod phylogenetics in light of three novel millipede (myriapoda: diplopoda) mitochondrial genomes with comments on the appropriateness of mitochondrial genome sequence data for inferring deep level relationships

Michael S Brewer, Lynn Swafford, Chad L Spruill, Jason E Bond
PloS One 2013, 8 (7): e68005

BACKGROUND: Arthropods are the most diverse group of eukaryotic organisms, but their phylogenetic relationships are poorly understood. Herein, we describe three mitochondrial genomes representing orders of millipedes for which complete genomes had not been characterized. Newly sequenced genomes are combined with existing data to characterize the protein coding regions of myriapods and to attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships within the Myriapoda and Arthropoda.

RESULTS: The newly sequenced genomes are similar to previously characterized millipede sequences in terms of synteny and length. Unique translocations occurred within the newly sequenced taxa, including one half of the Appalachioria falcifera genome, which is inverted with respect to other millipede genomes. Across myriapods, amino acid conservation levels are highly dependent on the gene region. Additionally, individual loci varied in the level of amino acid conservation. Overall, most gene regions showed low levels of conservation at many sites. Attempts to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships suffered from questionable relationships and low support values. Analyses of phylogenetic informativeness show the lack of signal deep in the trees (i.e., genes evolve too quickly). As a result, the myriapod tree resembles previously published results but lacks convincing support, and, within the arthropod tree, well established groups were recovered as polyphyletic.

CONCLUSIONS: The novel genome sequences described herein provide useful genomic information concerning millipede groups that had not been investigated. Taken together with existing sequences, the variety of compositions and evolution of myriapod mitochondrial genomes are shown to be more complex than previously thought. Unfortunately, the use of mitochondrial protein-coding regions in deep arthropod phylogenetics appears problematic, a result consistent with previously published studies. Lack of phylogenetic signal renders the resulting tree topologies as suspect. As such, these data are likely inappropriate for investigating such ancient relationships.

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