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A comprehensive and integrative reconstruction of evolutionary history for Anomura (Crustacea: Decapoda)

Heather D Bracken-Grissom1*, Maren E Cannon2, Patricia Cabezas23, Rodney M Feldmann4, Carrie E Schweitzer5, Shane T Ahyong6, Darryl L Felder7, Rafael Lemaitre8 and Keith A Crandall38

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Florida International University-Biscayne Bay Campus, North Miami, FL, 33181, USA

2 Department of Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 84602, USA

3 Computational Biology Institute, George Washington University, Ashburn, VA, 20147, USA

4 Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, OH, 44242, USA

5 Kent State University at Stark, 6000 Frank Ave. NW, North Canton, OH, 44720, USA

6 Australian Museum, 6 College St, Sydney, NSW, 2010, Australia

7 Department of Biology, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, LA, 70504, USA

8 Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 4210 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, MD, 20746, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:128  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-128

Published: 20 June 2013



The infraorder Anomura has long captivated the attention of evolutionary biologists due to its impressive morphological diversity and ecological adaptations. To date, 2500 extant species have been described but phylogenetic relationships at high taxonomic levels remain unresolved. Here, we reconstruct the evolutionary history—phylogeny, divergence times, character evolution and diversification—of this speciose clade. For this purpose, we sequenced two mitochondrial (16S and 12S) and three nuclear (H3, 18S and 28S) markers for 19 of the 20 extant families, using traditional Sanger and next-generation 454 sequencing methods. Molecular data were combined with 156 morphological characters in order to estimate the largest anomuran phylogeny to date. The anomuran fossil record allowed us to incorporate 31 fossils for divergence time analyses.


Our best phylogenetic hypothesis (morphological + molecular data) supports most anomuran superfamilies and families as monophyletic. However, three families and eleven genera are recovered as para- and polyphyletic. Divergence time analysis dates the origin of Anomura to the Late Permian ~259 (224–296) MYA with many of the present day families radiating during the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous. Ancestral state reconstruction suggests that carcinization occurred independently 3 times within the group. The invasion of freshwater and terrestrial environments both occurred between the Late Cretaceous and Tertiary. Diversification analyses found the speciation rate to be low across Anomura, and we identify 2 major changes in the tempo of diversification; the most significant at the base of a clade that includes the squat-lobster family Chirostylidae.


Our findings are compared against current classifications and previous hypotheses of anomuran relationships. Many families and genera appear to be poly- or paraphyletic suggesting a need for further taxonomic revisions at these levels. A divergence time analysis provides key insights into the origins of major lineages and events and the timing of morphological (body form) and ecological (habitat) transitions. Living anomuran biodiversity is the product of 2 major changes in the tempo of diversification; our initial insights suggest that the acquisition of a crab-like form did not act as a key innovation.

Anomura; Phylogeny; Divergence times; Diversification rates; Molecular; Morphology; Character evolution; Next-generation sequencing