A neurophylogenetic approach provides new insight to the evolution of Scaphopoda

Lauren H. Sumner-Rooney, Michael Schroedl, Eva Lodde-Bensch, David R Lindberg, Martin Heß, Gerrard P Brennan, Julia D. Sigwart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The position of scaphopods in molluscan phylogeny remains singularly contentious, with several sister relationships supported by morphological and phylogenomic data: ScaphopodaþBivalvia (Diasoma), Scaphopodaþ Cephalopoda (Variopoda), and ScaphopodaþGastropoda. Nervous system architecture has contributed significant insights to reconstructing phylogeny in the Mollusca and other invertebrate groups, but a modern neurophylogenetic approach has not been applied to molluscs, hampered by a lack of clearly defined homologous characters that can be unequivocally compared across the radical body plan disparity among the living clades. We present the first three-dimensional reconstruction of the anterior nervous system of a scaphopod, Rhabdus rectius, using histological tomography. We also describe a new putative sensory organ, a paired and pigmented sensory mantle slit. This structure is restricted to our study species and not a general feature of scaphopods, but it forms an integral part of the description of the nervous system in R. rectius. It also highlights the potential utility of neuro-anatomical characters formultiple levels of phylogenetic inference beyond this study. This potential has not previously been exploited for the thorny problem of molluscan phylogeny. The neuroanatomy of scaphopods demonstrates a highly derived architecture that shares a number of key characters with the cephalopod nervous system, and supports a ScaphopodaþCephalopoda grouping.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337–346
JournalEvolution & Development
Issue number6
Early online date21 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


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