Phylogenetic signal dissection identifies the root of starfishes

Roberto Feuda, Andrew B Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Relationships within the class Asteroidea have remained controversial for almost 100 years and, despite many attempts to resolve this problem using molecular data, no consensus has yet emerged. Using two nuclear genes and a taxon sampling covering the major asteroid clades we show that non-phylogenetic signal created by three factors--Long Branch Attraction, compositional heterogeneity and the use of poorly fitting models of evolution--have confounded accurate estimation of phylogenetic relationships. To overcome the effect of this non-phylogenetic signal we analyse the data using non-homogeneous models, site stripping and the creation of subpartitions aimed to reduce or amplify the systematic error, and calculate Bayes Factor support for a selection of previously suggested topological arrangements of asteroid orders. We show that most of the previous alternative hypotheses are not supported in the most reliable data partitions, including the previously suggested placement of either Forcipulatida or Paxillosida as sister group to the other major branches. The best-supported solution places Velatida as the sister group to other asteroids, and the implications of this finding for the morphological evolution of asteroids are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0123331
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Starfish
  • Journal Article


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