Phylogeny of Cladobranchia (Gastropoda: Nudibranchia): a total evidence analysis using DNA sequence data from public databases

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Goodheart, Jessica A.
Bazinet, Adam L.
Collins, Allen G.
Cummings, Michael P.
Cladobranchia is a clade of charismatic and exclusively marine slugs (Gastropoda: Nudibranchia). Though Cladobranchia and its sister taxon, Anthobranchia, have been supported by molecular data, little resolution among the higher-level groups within these two clades has emerged from previous analyses. Cladobranchia is traditionally divided into three taxa (Dendronotida, Euarminida, and Aeolidida), none of which have been supported by molecular phylogenetic studies. Reconstructions of the evolutionary relationships within Cladobranchia have resulted in poorly supported phylogenies, rife with polytomies and non-monophyletic groups contradicting previous taxonomic hypotheses. In this study, we present a working hypothesis for the evolutionary history of Cladobranchia, utilizing publicly available data that have been generated since the last attempt at a detailed phylogeny for this group (we include approximately 200 more taxa and a total of five genes). Our results resolve Cladobranchia as monophyletic and provide support for a small proportion of genera and families, but it is clear that the presently available data are insufficient to provide a robust and well-resolved phylogeny of these taxa as a whole.