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      Is geography an accurate predictor of evolutionary history in the millipede family Xystodesmidae?



      PeerJ Inc.

      Xystodesmidae, Evolution, Gonopod, Homoplasy, Sigmoria whiteheadi, Diplopoda, Phylogeny

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          For the past several centuries, millipede taxonomists have used the morphology of male copulatory structures (modified legs called gonopods), which are strongly variable and suggestive of species-level differences, as a source to understand taxon relationships. Millipedes in the family Xystodesmidae are blind, dispersal-limited and have narrow habitat requirements. Therefore, geographical proximity may instead be a better predictor of evolutionary relationship than morphology, especially since gonopodal anatomy is extremely divergent and similarities may be masked by evolutionary convergence. Here we provide a phylogenetics-based test of the power of morphological versus geographical character sets for resolving phylogenetic relationships in xystodesmid millipedes. Molecular data from 90 species-group taxa in the family were included in a six-gene phylogenetic analysis to provide the basis for comparing trees generated from these alternative character sets. The molecular phylogeny was compared to topologies representing three hypotheses: (1) a prior classification formulated using morphological and geographical data, (2) hierarchical groupings derived from Euclidean geographical distance, and (3) one based solely on morphological data. Euclidean geographical distance was not found to be a better predictor of evolutionary relationship than the prior classification, the latter of which was the most similar to the molecular topology. However, all three of the alternative topologies were highly divergent (Bayes factor >10) from the molecular topology, with the tree inferred exclusively from morphology being the most divergent. The results of this analysis show that a high degree of morphological convergence from substantial gonopod shape divergence generated spurious phylogenetic relationships. These results indicate the impact that a high degree of morphological homoplasy may have had on prior treatments of the family. Using the results of our phylogenetic analysis, we make several changes to the classification of the family, including transferring the rare state-threatened species Sigmoria whiteheadi Shelley, 1986 to the genus Apheloria Chamberlin, 1921—a relationship not readily apparent based on morphology alone. We show that while gonopod differences are a premier source of taxonomic characters to diagnose species pairwise, the traits should be viewed critically as taxonomic features uniting higher levels.

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            An algorithm for progressive multiple alignment of sequences with insertions.

            Dynamic programming algorithms guarantee to find the optimal alignment between two sequences. For more than a few sequences, exact algorithms become computationally impractical, and progressive algorithms iterating pairwise alignments are widely used. These heuristic methods have a serious drawback because pairwise algorithms do not differentiate insertions from deletions and end up penalizing single insertion events multiple times. Such an unrealistically high penalty for insertions typically results in overmatching of sequences and an underestimation of the number of insertion events. We describe a modification of the traditional alignment algorithm that can distinguish insertion from deletion and avoid repeated penalization of insertions and illustrate this method with a pair hidden Markov model that uses an evolutionary scoring function. In comparison with a traditional progressive alignment method, our algorithm infers a greater number of insertion events and creates gaps that are phylogenetically consistent but spatially less concentrated. Our results suggest that some insertion/deletion "hot spots" may actually be artifacts of traditional alignment algorithms.
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              Stochastic mapping of morphological characters.

              Many questions in evolutionary biology are best addressed by comparing traits in different species. Often such studies involve mapping characters on phylogenetic trees. Mapping characters on trees allows the nature, number, and timing of the transformations to be identified. The parsimony method is the only method available for mapping morphological characters on phylogenies. Although the parsimony method often makes reasonable reconstructions of the history of a character, it has a number of limitations. These limitations include the inability to consider more than a single change along a branch on a tree and the uncoupling of evolutionary time from amount of character change. We extended a method described by Nielsen (2002, Syst. Biol. 51:729-739) to the mapping of morphological characters under continuous-time Markov models and demonstrate here the utility of the method for mapping characters on trees and for identifying character correlation.

                Author and article information

                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                12 October 2017
                : 5
                Department of Entomology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) , Blacksburg, VA, United States of America
                ©2017 Means and Marek

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                Funded by: National Science Foundation Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics (ARTS)
                Award ID: DEB# 1655635
                Funded by: Virginia Tech USDA NIFA Hatch Project
                Award ID: VA-160028
                Funding for this study was provided by a National Science Foundation Systematics and Biodiversity Science Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics (ARTS) award to Paul E. Marek (DEB# 1655635). Supplemental funding was provided by a Virginia Tech USDA NIFA Hatch Project (VA-160028). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Conservation Biology
                Evolutionary Studies


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