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The molecular phylogeny of the sea star Echinaster (Asteroidea: Echinasteridae) provides insights for genus taxonomy

Lopes, Elinia MedeirosPérez-Portela, R.Paiva, Paulo CesarVentura, C. R. R.  Invertebrate Biology 135(3): 235-244 (2016)  DIGITAL CSIC

In this study, we used sequences of two mitochondrial genes, cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) and 16S rRNA, and one nuclear gene, 28S rRNA, to test the monophyly of the sea star genus Echinaster, and understand the phylogenetic relationships among species and subgenera within this genus. Phylogenetic analyses based on Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood methods revealed three clades with high values of genetic divergence among them (K2P distances for COI over 23%). One of the clades grouped all Echinaster (Othilia) species, and the other two clades included Echinaster (non-Othilia) species and Henricia species, respectively. Although the relationships among Henricia, Othilia, and Echinaster could not be completely clarified, the Othilia clade was a well-supported group with shared diagnostic morphological characters. Moreover, the approximately unbiased test applied to the phylogenetic reconstruction rejected the hypothesis of the genus Echinaster as a monophyletic group. According to these results, we suggest the revalidation of Othilia as a genus instead of a subgenus within Echinaster. Our study clarifies important points about the phylogenetic relationships among species of Echinaster. Other important systematic questions about the taxonomic classification of Echinaster and Henricia still remain open, but this molecular study provides bases for future research on the topic.