Phylogenomic analyses of Crassiclitellata support major Northern and Southern Hemisphere clades and a Pangaean origin for earthworms
BACKGROUND: Earthworms (Crassiclitellata) are a diverse group of annelids of substantial ecological and economic importance. Earthworms are primarily terrestrial infaunal animals, and as such are probably rather poor natural dispersers. Therefore, the near global distribution of earthworms reflects an old and likely complex evolutionary history. Despite a long-standing interest in Crassiclitellata, relationships among and within major clades remain unresolved. METHODS: In this study, we evaluate crassiclitellate phylogenetic relationships using 38 new transcriptomes in combination with publicly available transcriptome data. Our data include representatives of nearly all extant earthworm families and a representative of Moniligastridae, another terrestrial annelid group thought to be closely related to Crassiclitellata. We use a series of differentially filtered data matrices and analyses to examine the effects of data partitioning, missing data, compositional and branch-length heterogeneity, and outgroup inclusion. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: We recover a consistent, strongly supported ingroup topology irrespective of differences in methodology. The topology supports two major earthworm clades, each of which consists of a Northern Hemisphere subclade and a Southern Hemisphere subclade. Divergence time analysis results are concordant with the hypothesis that these north-south splits are the result of the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea. CONCLUSIONS: These results support several recently proposed revisions to the classical understanding of earthworm phylogeny, reveal two major clades that seem to reflect Pangaean distributions, and raise new questions about earthworm evolutionary relationships.