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Schuster, Astrid; Vargas, Sergio; Knapp, Ingrid S.; Pomponi, Shirley A.; Toonen, Robert J.; Erpenbeck, Dirk; Wörheide, Gert (2018): Divergence times in demosponges (Porifera): first insights from new mitogenomes and the inclusion of fossils in a birth-death clock model. In: BMC Evolutionary Biology 18:114
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Background: Approximately 80% of all described extant sponge species belong to the class Demospongiae. Yet, despite their diversity and importance, accurate divergence times are still unknown for most demosponge clades. The estimation of demosponge divergence time is key to answering fundamental questions on the origin of Demospongiae, their diversification and historical biogeography. Molecular sequence data alone is not informative on an absolute time scale, and therefore needs to be "calibrated" with additional data such as fossils. Here, we calibrate the molecular data with the fossilized birth-death model, which compared to strict node dating, allows for the inclusion of young and old fossils in the analysis of divergence time. We use desma-bearing sponges, a diverse group of demosponges that form rigid skeletons and have a rich and continuous fossil record dating back to the Cambrian (similar to 500 Ma), to date the demosponge radiation and constrain the timing of key evolutionary events, like the transition from marine to freshwater habitats. To infer a dated phylogeny of Demospongiae we assembled the mitochondrial genomes of six desma-bearing demosponges from reduced-representation genomic libraries. The total dataset included 33 complete demosponge mitochondrial genomes and 30 fossils. Results: Our study supports a Neoproterozoic origin of Demospongiae. Novel age estimates for the split of freshwater and marine sponges dating back to the Carboniferous and the previously assumed recent (similar to 18 Ma) diversification of freshwater sponges is supported. Moreover, we provide detailed age estimates for a possible diversification of Tetractinellidae (similar to 315 Ma), the Astrophorina (similar to 240 Ma), the Spirophorina (similar to 120 Ma) and the family Corallistidae (similar to 88 Ma) all of which are considered as key groups for dating the Demospongiae due to their extraordinary rich and continuous fossil history. Conclusion: This study provides novel insights into the evolution of Demospongiae. Observed discrepancies of our dated phylogeny with their putative first fossil appearance dates are discussed for selected sponge groups. For instance, a Carboniferous origin of the order Tetractinellida seems to be too late, compared to their first appearance in the fossil record in the Middle Cambrian. This would imply that Paleozoic spicule forms are not homologous to post-Paleozoic forms.