Molecular Systematics of the Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Endemic Brachyuran Family Bythograeidae: A Comparison of Three Bayesian Species Tree Methods

<div><p>Brachyuran crabs of the family Bythograeidae are endemic to deep-sea hydrothermal vents and represent one of the most successful groups of macroinvertebrates that have colonized this extreme environment. Occurring worldwide, the family includes six genera (<i>Allograea</i>, <i>Austinograea</i>, <i>Bythograea</i>, <i>Cyanagraea</i>, <i>Gandalfus</i>, and <i>Segonzacia</i>) and fourteen formally described species. To investigate their evolutionary relationships, we conducted Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian molecular phylogenetic analyses, based on DNA sequences from fragments of three mitochondrial genes (16S rDNA, Cytochrome oxidase I, and Cytochrome b) and three nuclear genes (28S rDNA, the sodium–potassium ATPase a-subunit ‘NaK’, and Histone H3A). We employed traditional concatenated (i.e., supermatrix) phylogenetic methods, as well as three recently developed Bayesian multilocus methods aimed at inferring species trees from potentially discordant gene trees. We found strong support for two main clades within Bythograeidae: one comprising the members of the genus <i>Bythograea</i>; and the other comprising the remaining genera. Relationships within each of these two clades were partially resolved. We compare our results with an earlier hypothesis on the phylogenetic relationships among bythograeid genera based on morphology. We also discuss the biogeography of the family in the light of our results. Our species tree analyses reveal differences in how each of the three methods weighs conflicting phylogenetic signal from different gene partitions and how limits on the number of outgroup taxa may affect the results.</p></div>