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Spider systematics has overwhelmingly relied on morphological characters to resolve higher-level phylogenetic questions. Molecular phylogenetic studies of spiders above the genus level have been rare, partly because of a paucity of characterized genes available for amplification and sequencing. Here we show the phylogenetic utility of a new molecular marker, elongation factor-1 gamma (EF-1gamma) for discerning family level relationships in the spider infraorder, Mygalomorphae. We included genomic sequences from 26 mygalomorph genera in 14 families as well as cDNA sequences from 10 families in the infraorder Araneomorphae. We found strong support for the traditional split of mygalomorphs into atypoids (Antrodiaetidae, Atypidae, and Mecicobothriidae) and non-atypoids (all other families). Some families with multiple generic representatives were found to be polyphyletic or paraphyletic, such as the Nemesiidae, Ctenizidae, and Hexathelidae. A small portion of genomic EF-1gamma that could be amplified from araneomorphs contained a short intron, suggesting that longer genomic sequences could not be amplified due to the presence of introns. This intron may be useful for intra-familial araneomorph relationships. A tentative timeline for spider evolution is proposed using the evolutionary rate of EF-1gamma, estimated to be approximately 0.22% pairwise divergence per million years based on a non-parametric smoothing method (NPRS) and fossil constraints.


Nadia A Ayoub, Jessica E Garb, Marshal Hedin, Cheryl Y Hayashi. Utility of the nuclear protein-coding gene, elongation factor-1 gamma (EF-1gamma), for spider systematics, emphasizing family level relationships of tarantulas and their kin (Araneae: Mygalomorphae). Molecular phylogenetics and evolution. 2007 Feb;42(2):394-409

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PMID: 16971146

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