Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 58-70

First online:

What can 18S rDNA do for bivalve phylogeny?

  • Gerhard SteinerAffiliated withInstitute of Zoology, University of Vienna
  • , Manfred MüllerAffiliated withInstitute of Genetics, University of Vienna

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Molecular characteristics, especially 18S rDNA sequences, may be of great value for the study of bivalve evolution and its numerous morphological convergencies once the reliability of these data can be evaluated. The analysis of 11 published complete molluscan sequences and two new ones,Arca noae andAtrina pectinata, reveals considerable differences in relative substitution rates. The gastropod and eulamellibranch species have the fastest and Atrina species have the slowest rates. Two methods are used to assess the information contents of the dataset in addition to bootstrap analysis, spectral analysis, and the “pattern of resolved nodes” technique. Tree reconstructions by parsimony, neighbor-joining, and maximum-likelihood differ in regard to the position of the eulamellibranch family Mactridae and ofCrassostrea. Although there is a signal for the monophyly of Bivalvia, Mactridae cluster with Gastropoda in most runs, rendering Bivalvia diphyletic. The position ofCrassostrea was extremely variable, probably due to the high substitution rate of this species.Atrina roots deeper thanArca in all trees, although a corresponding signal in spectral analysis is absent. Phylogenetic signals among the three pectinid species are low but sufficient to resolve the branching pattern. The tree inferred from the 18S rDNA and from morphological data has Bivalvia monophyletic with a basal polytomy of Mactridae,Crassostrea, and the remaining Pteriomorphia, whereArca branches off before Atrina and the Pectinidae.Argopecten is sister group to the other two pectinids; 18S sequence data will have great impact on our understanding of bivalve phylogeny, but only when more sequences of similar substitution rates are available.

Key words

Mollusca Bivalvia Phylogeny 18S rDNA Spectral analysis Atrina pectinata Arca noae