The Valvatacea is one the most ecologically important, taxonomically diverse, and widespread groups of post-Palaeozoic (i.e. modern) Asteroidea. Classification within the group has been historically problematic. We present a comprehensively sampled, three-gene (12S, 16S, early-stage histone H3) molecular phylogenetic analysis of the Valvatacea. We include five of the six families within the Paxillosida, the monotypic Notomyotida, and 13 of the 16 families of the living Valvatida. The Solasteridae is removed from the Velatida (Spinulosacea) and joins the Ganeriidae and the Leilasteridae as members of the clade containing the Asterinidae. The Poraniidae is supported as the sister group to the large cluster of Valvatacea. Asteropseids and poraniids are phylogenetically distant, contrary to morphological evidence. Several goniasterid-like ophidiasterids, such as Fromia and Neoferdina are supported as derived goniasterids rather than as Ophidiasteridae. The Benthopectinidae (Notomyotida) are supported as members of the Paxillosida as are two members of the Pseudarchasterinae that have traditionally been considered members of the Goniasteridae. Our data suggest that Antarctic valvataceans may be derived from sister taxa in adjacent regions.
© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 161, 769–788.