Macroevolutionary Analyses Suggest That Environmental Factors, Not Venom Apparatus, Play Key Role in Terebridae Marine Snail Diversification


How species diversification occurs remains an unanswered question in predatory marine invertebrates, such as sea snails of the family Terebridae. However, the anatomical disparity found throughput the Terebridae provides a unique perspective for investigating diversification patterns in venomous predators. In this study, a new dated molecular phylogeny of the Terebridae is used as a framework for investigating diversification of the family through time, and for testing the putative role of intrinsic and extrinsic traits, such as shell size, larval ecology, bathymetric distribution, and anatomical features of the venom apparatus, as drivers of terebrid species diversification. Macroevolutionary analysis revealed that when diversification rates do not vary across Terebridae clades, the whole family has been increasing its global diversification rate since 25 Ma. We recovered evidence for a concurrent increase in diversification of depth ranges, while shell size appeared to have undergone a fast divergence early in terebrid evolutionary history. Our data also confirm that planktotrophy is the ancestral larval ecology in terebrids, and evolutionary modeling highlighted that shell size is linked to larval ecology of the Terebridae, with species with long-living pelagic larvae tending to be larger and have a broader size range than lecithotrophic species. Although we recovered patterns of size and depth trait diversification through time and across clades, the presence or absence of a venom gland (VG) did not appear to have impacted Terebridae diversification. Terebrids have lost their venom apparatus several times and we confirm that the loss of a VG happened in phylogenetically clustered terminal taxa and that reversal is extremely unlikely. Our findings suggest that environmental factors, and not venom, have had more influence on terebrid evolution.

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