|Phylogeny and evolution of corambid nudibranchs (Mollusca: Gastropoda)|In: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London. ISSN 0024-4082, more
Doridoidea Rafinesque, 1815 [WoRMS]; Nudibranchia [WoRMS]; Marine
Doridoidea; habitat switches; heterochrony; histology; morphology; long-distance dispersal; Nudibranchia; paedomorphosis; radiation
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Organismic diversity, as well as distributional and ecological patterns, can be fully understood in an evolutionary framework only. Reliable phylogenetic trees are required to ‘read history’, but are not yet available for most marine invertebrate groups. Molecular systematics offers an enormous potential, but still fails for ‘all-species approaches’ on groups with species that are rare or occur in remote areas only, simply because there is no easily collectable material available for sequence analyses. Exploring morphologically aberrant corambid nudibranch gastropods as a case study, we assess whether or not morphology-based phylogenetic analyses can fill this gap and produce a tree that allows a detailed view on evolutionary history. Morphology-based parsimony analysis of corambids and potential relatives resulted in a well-resolved and remarkably robust topology. As an offshoot of kelp-associated onchidoridid ancestors, and obviously driven by the heterochronic shortening of life cycles and morphological juvenilization in an ephemeral habitat, the ancestor of corambids originated in cool northern Pacific coastal waters. A basal clade (the genus Loy) diverged there, adapting to live on soft bottoms under successive reversals of paedomorphic traits. The more speciose Corambe lineage radiated preying upon short-lived encrusting bryozoa in a high-energy kelp environment. Selection favoured transformation of the mantle into a cuticle-covered shield, and successive paedomorphic translocations of dorid anal gills to the protected ventral side of the body, where compensatory, multiple gills evolved. Corambe species probably first colonized tropical American seas, and then radiated in worldwide temperate waters: this is explained by the excellent long-distance dispersal abilities afforded by rafting on kelp, with the subsequent divergence of colonizers in allopatry. The competitive coexistence of Corambe pacifica MacFarland & O'Donoghue, 1929 and Corambe steinbergae (Lance, 1962) off California is the result of independent colonization events. The closing of the Isthmus of Panama separated the latter species from a flock that have radiated within warm Atlantic waters since then. Our case study shows that morphological structures, if investigated in depth, bear the potential for an efficient phylogenetic analysis of groups that are still elusive to molecular analyses. Tracing character evolution and integrating a wide range of geographic, biological, and ecological background information allowed us to reconstruct an evolutionary scenario for corambids that is detailed and plausible, and can be tested by future molecular approaches.