JOURNAL ARTICLE

Monophyly, Taxon Sampling, and the Nature of Ranks in the Classification of Orb-weaving Spiders (Araneae: Araneoidea)

Robert J Kallal, Dimitar Dimitrov, Miquel Arnedo, Gonzalo Giribet, Gustavo Hormiga
Systematic Biology 2019 June 4
31165170
We address some of the taxonomic and classification changes proposed by Kuntner et al. (in press) in a comparative study on the evolution of sexual size dimorphism in nephiline spiders. Their proposal to re-circumscribe araneids and to rank the subfamily Nephilinae is fundamentally flawed as it renders the family Araneidae paraphyletic. We discuss the importance of monophyly, outgroup selection and taxon sampling, the subjectivity of ranks, and the implications of the age of origin criterion to assign categorical ranks in biological classifications. We explore the outcome of applying the approach of Kuntner et al. (in press) to the classification of spiders with emphasis on the ecribellate orb-weavers (Araneoidea) using a recently published dated phylogeny. We discuss the implications of including the putative sister group of Nephilinae (the sexually dimorphic genus Paraplectanoides) and the putative sister group of Araneidae (the miniature, monomorphic family Theridiosomatidae). We propose continuation of the phylogenetic classification put forth by Dimitrov et al. (2017) and we formally rank Nephilinae and Phonognathinae as subfamilies of Araneidae. Our classification better reflects the understanding of the phylogenetic placement and evolutionary history of nephilines and phonognathines while maintaining the diagnosability of Nephilinae. It also fulfills the fundamental requirement that taxa must be monophyletic, and thus avoids the paraphyly of Araneidae implied by Kuntner et al. (in press).

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