Molluscan phylogenomics requires strategically selected genomes

Julia D. Sigwart, David R. Lindberg, Chong Chen, Jin Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The extraordinary diversity in molluscan body plans, and the genomic mechanisms that enable it, remains one of the great questions of evolution. The eight distinct living taxonomic classes of molluscs are each unambiguously monophyletic; however, significant controversy remains about the phylogenetic relationships among those eight branches. Molluscs are the second-largest animal phylum, with over 100 000 living species with broad biological, economic and medical interest. To date, only around 53 genome assemblies have been accessioned to NCBI GenBank covering only four of the eight living molluscan classes. Furthermore, the molluscan taxa where partial or whole-genome assemblies are available are often aberrantly fast evolving or recently derived lineages. Characteristic adaptations provide interesting targets for whole-genome projects, in animals like the scaly-foot snail or octopus, but without basal-branching lineages for comparison, the context of recently derived features cannot be assessed. The currently available genomes also create a non-optimal set of taxa for resolving deeper phylogenetic branches: they are a small sample representing a large group, and those that are available come primarily from a rarefied pool. Thoughtful selection of taxa for future projects should focus on the blank areas of the molluscan tree, which are ripe with opportunities to delve into peculiarities of genome evolution, and reveal the biology and evolutionary history of molluscs. This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting issue ‘Molluscan genomics: broad insights and future directions for a neglected phylum’.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 20200161
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1825
Early online date05 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021


  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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