Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 279–290 | Cite as

Increased taxon sampling provides new insights into the phylogeny and evolution of the subclass Calcaronea (Porifera, Calcarea)

  • Adriana AlvizuEmail author
  • Mari Heggernes Eilertsen
  • Joana R. Xavier
  • Hans Tore Rapp
Original Article


Calcaronean sponges are acknowledged to be taxonomically difficult, and generally, molecular data does not support the current morphology-based classification. In addition, molecular markers that have been successfully employed in other sponge taxa (e.g., COI mtDNA) have proven challenging to amplify due to the characteristics of calcarean mitochondrial genomes. A short fragment of the 28S rRNA gene (C-region) was recently proposed as the most phylogenetically informative marker to be used as a DNA barcode for calcareous sponges. In this study, the C-region and a fragment of the 18S rRNA gene were sequenced for a wide range of calcareous taxa, mainly from the subclass Calcaronea. The resulting dataset includes the most comprehensive taxon sampling of Calcaronea to date, and the inclusion of multiple specimens per species allowed us to evaluate the performance of both markers, as barcoding markers. 18S proved to be highly conserved within Calcaronea and does not have sufficient signal to resolve phylogenetic relationships within the subclass. Although the C-region does not exhibit a “proper” barcoding gap, it provides good phylogenetic resolution for calcaronean sponges. The resulting phylogeny supports previous findings that the current classification of the subclass Calcaronea is highly artificial, and with high levels of homoplasy. Furthermore, the close relationship between the order Baerida and the genus Achramorpha suggest that the order Baerida should be abandoned. Although the C-region currently represents the best available marker for phylogenetic and barcoding studies in Calcaronea, it is necessary to develop additional molecular markers to improve the classification within this subclass.


Calcareous sponges Barcoding gap Phylogeny of Calcaronea C-region of LSU 



A number of people and institutions have provided material from all around the world for this study: We are greatly indebted to Claire Goodwin, Alexander Ereskowsky, Bente Stransky, and Stefano Schiaparelli for sending us samples from St Helena, White Sea, Greenland and the Antarctic. Torkild Bakken (the NTNU University Museum), Ole Secher Tendal (Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen), Jon Anders Kongsrud (University Museum of Bergen and the MAREANO program), and Kenneth Lundin (Natural History Museum, Gothenburg) are thanked for providing material from their collections. Saskia Brix (Senckenberg Naturmuseum Frankfurt) is thanked for inviting us to take part in the IceAge project and funding from the Norwegian Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio) enabled us to collect on the Greenlandic west-coast. Special thanks to David Rees and Pedro Ribeiro (both University of Bergen) for helping us in the molecular lab and with the data analyses using the software PHASE-3. We further thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments to a previous version of this manuscript.

Funding information

This study was supported by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (grant to HTR, project number 70184219), the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (grant to HTR), and the Research Council of Norway (through contract number 179560).

Supplementary material

13127_2018_368_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (68 kb)
Online Resource 1 List of specimens of calcareous sponges used in this study, with the respective voucher numbers, locality information, GenBank accession numbers and morphological remarks for “uncertain” and possible new species (XLSX 67.9 kb)
13127_2018_368_MOESM2_ESM.mase (199 kb)
Online Resource 2 Alignment of 106 sequences of 18S rRNA rDNA (MASE file) according to the secondary structure information for Calcaronea available at (MASE 198 kb)
13127_2018_368_MOESM3_ESM.mase (77 kb)
Online Resource 3 Alignment of 152 sequences of the C-region of 28S rDNA (MASE file) according to the LSU rRNA secondary structure model proposed by Voigt and Wörheide (2016) (MASE 77.3 kb)
13127_2018_368_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (184 kb)
Online Resource 4 Matrix of pairwise uncorrected p-distances calculated in MEGA for 18S rRNA (XLSX 184 kb)
13127_2018_368_MOESM5_ESM.xlsx (9.1 mb)
Online Resource 5 Matrix of pairwise uncorrected p-distances calculated in MEGA for the C-region of 28S rDNA (XLSX 9338 kb)


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and K.G. Jebsen Centre for Deep-Sea ResearchUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Uni Research, Uni EnvironmentBergenNorway

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