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Rene Tänzler

Tarantula phylogenomics: A robust phylogeny of multiple tarantula lineages inferred from transcriptome data sheds light on the prickly issue of urticating setae evolution

Saoirse Foley, Tim Lüddecke, Dong-Qiang Cheng, Sven Künzel, Stuart J. Longhorn , Ingo Wendt, Volker von Wirth, Rene Tänzler, Miguel Vences, William H. Piel ,2019

Mygalomorph spiders of the family Theraphosidae, known to the broader public as tarantulas, are among the most recognizable arachnids on earth due to their large size and widespread distribution. Their use of urticating setae is a notable adaptation that has evolved exclusively in certain New World theraphosids. Thus far, the evolutionary history of Theraphosidae remains poorly understood; theraphosid systematics still largely relies on morphological datasets, which suffer from high degrees of homoplasy, and traditional Sanger sequencing of preselected genes failed to provide strong support for supra-generic clades. In this study, we provide the first robust phylogenetic hypothesis of theraphosid evolution inferred from transcriptome data. A core ortholog approach was used to generate a phylogeny from 2460 orthologous genes across 25 theraphosid genera, representing all of the major theraphosid subfamilies, except Selenogyrinae. Our phylogeny recovers an unprecedented monophyletic group that comprises the vast majority of New World theraphosid subfamilies including Aviculariinae, Schismatothelinae and Theraphosinae. Concurrently, we provide additional evidence for the integrity of questionable subfamilies, such as Poecilotheriinae and Psalmopoeinae, and support the non-monophyly of Ischnocolinae. The deeper relationships between almost all subfamilies are confidently inferred. We also used our phylogeny in tandem with published morphological data to perform ancestral state analyses on urticating setae, and contextualize our reconstructions with emphasis on the complex evolutionary history of the trait.