Evolutionary history of larval skeletal morphology in sea urchin Echinometridae (Echinoidea: Echinodermata) as deduced from mitochondrial DNA molecular phylogeny

Kinjo, S.; Shirayama, Y.; Wada, H.

Evolution and Development 10(5): 632-641


ISSN/ISBN: 1520-541X
PMID: 18803780
DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-142x.2008.00277.x
Accession: 022607399

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The larval skeletons of sea urchins show considerable morphological diversity, even between closely related species, although the evolutionary history and functional significance of this diversity are poorly understood. To infer the evolutionary history of the skeletal morphology, we focused on echinometrid species for which the morphological variation in larval skeletons had been investigated qualitatively and quantitatively. We reconstructed the phylogenetic relationships among 14 echinometrid species based on mitochondrial ND1 and ND2 genes and mapped the morphological characters onto the resultant trees. The monophyly of each genus in the Echinometridae was well supported by our results, as was the close affinity between Colobocentrotus, Heterocentrotus, and Echinometra. The mapping of the morphological characters of the larval skeletons indicated that the length, direction, and density of spines on the postoral rods was well conserved in each group of Echinometridae and that the abundance of spines and the size and shape of the body skeleton changed relatively frequently and hence were less conserved. In Echinometrid species, morphological variation in relatively unconserved features tends to be associated with latitudinal distributions, rather than phylogenetic relationships, indicating that the morphological diversity of larval skeletons could have been caused by adaptation to the habitat environment. Some morphological differences, however, seem to be nonfunctional and generated by the constraints on larval skeletogenesis. Thus, echinometrid species can be a good model with which to study the evolutionary history from both ecological and developmental standpoints.