Vargas, S., Erpenbeck, D., Göcke, C., Hall, K. A., Hooper, J. N. A., Janussen, D. & Wörheide, G. (2012) Molecular phylogeny of Abyssocladia (Cladorhizidae: Poecilosclerida) and Phelloderma (Phellodermidae: Poecilosclerida) suggests a diversification of chelae microscleres in cladorhizid sponges. —Zoologica Scripta, 42, 106–116.
The taxonomic placement of Abyssocladia Lévi, 1964 (Poecilosclerida) is controversial, having been assigned at various times to three different families (Mycalidae, Cladorhizidae and Phellodermidae) in two different suborders (Mycalina and Myxillina, respectively), since its inception in 1964. It shares the general body plan with the carnivorous sponge family Cladorhizidae (Mycalina), including the lack of an aquiferous system. Nevertheless, it also has chela spicules apparently identical to those in PhellodermaRidley & Dendy 1886 (Phellodermidae, Myxillina). The ongoing debate on the position of Abyssocladia ultimately reduces to a discussion on the use of chelae morphology to infer phylogenetic relationships within Poecilosclerida. Here, we infer the phylogenetic relationships of the genera Phelloderma and Abyssocladia using two independent molecular markers (28S rDNA and COI), showing that Abyssocladia is not closely related to Phelloderma and belongs in Cladorhizidae. We suggest that despite their complexity, chelae morphology can evolve independently in different poecilosclerid lineages and as such might be potentially misleading as indicator of the phylogenetic history of the group. We also provide the first phylogenetic analysis of the carnivorous sponge family Cladorhizidae and give first insights into the evolution of this feeding mode in Poecilosclerida and, more generally, in Porifera.