Some of the morphological characters used in Porifera taxonomy have often been shown to be inconsistent. In the present study, we tested the phylogenetic coherence of currently used taxonomic characters of the calcarean genus Clathrina. For this, 20 species of Clathrina and three other calcinean genera (Ascandra, Guancha, and Leucetta) were sequenced for the ITS and D2 region of the 28S ribosomal DNA. Maximum-likelihood and maximum-parsimony algorithms were used to reconstruct phylogenetic trees. Deep divergences were observed in our tree and Clathrina was shown to be paraphyletic. The major split in our topology showed a clear-cut distinction between sponges with and without tetractine spicules. Moreover, a group of yellow-coloured Clathrina was clearly separated from the remaining white-coloured species. Our results show that the presence of diactines, water-collecting tubes, the degree of cormus anastomosis, and actine shapes do not correlate with the major clades of the calcinean phylogeny. On the other hand, the presence of tripods, the absence of tetractines, and the presence of spines in the apical actine of tetractines seem to be good synapomorphies for clades in our tree. Our results demonstrate that skeleton characters can be reliably used in higher level taxonomy in Clathrinida.
© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 163, 1026–1034.