Harvestmen, the third most-diverse arachnid order, are an ancient group found on all continental landmasses, except Antarctica. However, a terrestrial mode of life and leathery, poorly mineralized exoskeleton makes preservation unlikely, and their fossil record is limited. The few Palaeozoic species discovered to date appear surprisingly modern, but are too poorly preserved to allow unequivocal taxonomic placement. Here, we use high-resolution X-ray micro-tomography to describe two new harvestmen from the Carboniferous ( approximately 305 Myr) of France. The resulting computer models allow the first phylogenetic analysis of any Palaeozoic Opiliones, explicitly resolving both specimens as members of different extant lineages, and providing corroboration for molecular estimates of an early Palaeozoic radiation within the order. Furthermore, remarkable similarities between these fossils and extant harvestmen implies extensive morphological stasis in the order. Compared with other arachnids--and terrestrial arthropods generally--harvestmen are amongst the first groups to evolve fully modern body plans.
Molluscs (snails, octopuses, clams and their relatives) have a great disparity of body plans and, among the animals, only arthropods surpass them in species number. This diversity has made Mollusca one of the best-studied groups of animals, yet their evolutionary relationships remain poorly resolved. Open questions have important implications for the origin of Mollusca and for morphological evolution within the group. These questions include whether the shell-less, vermiform aplacophoran molluscs diverged before the origin of the shelled molluscs (Conchifera) or lost their shells secondarily. Monoplacophorans were not included in molecular studies until recently, when it was proposed that they constitute a clade named Serialia together with Polyplacophora (chitons), reflecting the serial repetition of body organs in both groups. Attempts to understand the early evolution of molluscs become even more complex when considering the large diversity of Cambrian fossils. These can have multiple dorsal shell plates and sclerites or can be shell-less but with a typical molluscan radula and serially repeated gills. To better resolve the relationships among molluscs, we generated transcriptome data for 15 species that, in combination with existing data, represent for the first time all major molluscan groups. We analysed multiple data sets containing up to 216,402 sites and 1,185 gene regions using multiple models and methods. Our results support the clade Aculifera, containing the three molluscan groups with spicules but without true shells, and they support the monophyly of Conchifera. Monoplacophora is not the sister group to other Conchifera but to Cephalopoda. Strong support is found for a clade that comprises Scaphopoda (tusk shells), Gastropoda and Bivalvia, with most analyses placing Scaphopoda and Gastropoda as sister groups. This well-resolved tree will constitute a framework for further studies of mollusc evolution, development and anatomy.
Traditional earthworm taxonomy is hindered due to their anatomical simplicity and the plasticity of the characteristics often used for diagnosing species. Making phylogenetic inferences based on these characters is more than difficult. In this study we use molecular tools to unravel the phylogeny of the clitellate family Hormogastridae. The family includes species of large to mid-sized earthworms distributed almost exclusively in the western Mediterranean region where they play an important ecological role. We analyzed individuals from 46 locations spanning the Iberian Peninsula to Corsica and Sardinia, representing the four described genera in the family and 20 species. Molecular markers include mitochondrial regions of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene (COI), 16S rRNA and tRNAs for Leu, Ala, and Ser, two nuclear ribosomal genes (nearly complete 18S rRNA and a fragment of 28S rRNA) and two nuclear protein-encoding genes (histones H3 and H4). Analyses of the data using different approaches corroborates monophyly of Hormogastridae, but the genus Hormogaster is paraphyletic and Hormogaster pretiosa appears polyphyletic, stressing the need for taxonomic revisionary work in the family. The genus Vignysa could represent an early offshoot in the family, although the relationships with other genera are uncertain. The genus Hemigastrodrilus is related to the Hormogaster elisae complex and both are found in the Atlantic drainage of the Iberian Peninsula and France. From a biogeographic perspective Corsica and Sardinia include members of two separate hormogastrid lineages. The species located in Corsica and Northern Sardinia are related to Vignysa, whereas Hormogaster pretiosa pretiosa, from Southern Sardinia, is closely related to the Hormogaster species from the NE Iberian Peninsula. A molecular dating of the tree using the separation of the Sardinian microplate as a calibration point (at 33 MY) and assuming a model of vicariance indicates that the diversification of Hormogastridae may be ancient, ranging from 97 to 67 Ma.