Evolutionary Relationships Among Scyphozoan Jellyfish Families Based on Complete Taxon Sampling and Phylogenetic Analyses of 18S and 28S Ribosomal DNA Article uri icon


  • Bayha, Keith M., Dawson, Michael N., Collins, Allen Gilbert, Barbeitos, Marcos S. and Haddock, Steven H. D.


  • A stable phylogenetic hypothesis for families within jellyfish class Scyphozoa has been elusive. Reasons for the lack of resolution of scyphozoan familial relationships include a dearth of morphological characters that reliably distinguish taxa and incomplete taxonomic sampling in molecular studies. Here, we address the latter issue by using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships among all 19 currently valid scyphozoan families, using sequence data from two nuclear genes: 18S and 28S rDNA. Consistent with prior morphological hypotheses, we find strong evidence for monophyly of subclass Discomedusae, order Coronatae, rhizostome suborder Kolpophorae and superfamilies Actinomyariae, Kampylomyariae, Krikomyariae, and Scapulatae. Eleven of the 19 currently recognized scyphozoan families are robustly monophyletic, and we suggest recognition of two new families pending further analyses. In contrast to long-standing morphological hypotheses, the phylogeny shows coronate family Nausithoidae, semaeostome family Cyaneidae, and rhizostome suborder Daktyliophorae to be nonmonophyletic. Our analyses neither strongly support nor strongly refute monophyly of order Rhizostomeae, superfamily Inscapulatae, and families Ulmaridae, Catostylidae, Lychnorhizidae, and Rhizostomatidae. These taxa, as well as familial relationships within Coronatae and within rhizostome superfamily Inscapulatae, remain unclear and may be resolved by additional genomic and taxonomic sampling. In addition to clarifying some historically difficult taxonomic questions and highlighting nodes in particular need of further attention, the molecular phylogeny presented here will facilitate more robust study of phenotypic evolution in the Scyphozoa, including the evolution characters associated with mass occurrences of jellyfish.

publication date

  • 2010