We present a comprehensively sampled three-gene phylogeny of the monophyletic Forcipulatacea, one of three major lineages within the crown-group Asteroidea. We present substantially more Southern Hemisphere and deep-sea taxa than were sampled in previous molecular studies of this group. Morphologically distinct groups, such as the Brisingida and the Zoroasteridae, are upheld as monophyletic. Brisingida is supported as the derived sister group to the Asteriidae (restricted), rather than as a basal taxon. The Asteriidae is paraphyletic, and is broken up into the Stichasteridae and four primary asteriid clades: (1) a highly diverse boreal clade, containing members from the Arctic and sub-Arctic in the Northern Hemisphere; (2) the genus Sclerasterias; (3) and (4) two sister clades that contain asteriids from the Antarctic and pantropical regions. The Stichasteridae, which was regarded as a synonym of the Asteriidae, is resurrected by our results, and represents the most diverse Southern Hemisphere forcipulatacean clade (although two deep-sea stichasterid genera occur in the Northern Hemisphere). The Labidiasteridae is artificial, and should be synonymized into the Heliasteridae. The Pedicellasteridae is paraphyletic, with three separate clades containing pedicellasterid taxa emerging among the basal Forcipulatacea. Fossils and timing estimates from species-level phylogeographic studies are consistent with prior phylogenetic hypotheses for the Forcipulatacea, suggesting diversification of basal taxa in the early Mesozoic, with some evidence for more widely distributed ranges from Cretacous taxa. Our analysis suggests a hypothesis of an older fauna present in the Antarctic during the Eocene, which was succeeded by a modern Antarctic fauna that is represented by the recently derived Antarctic Asteriidae and other forcipulatacean lineages.
© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 162, 646–660.