Phylogeny of North American amblemines (Bivalvia, Unionoida): prodigious polyphyly proves pervasive across genera

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The subfamily Ambleminae is the most diverse subfamily of fresh-water mussels (order Unionoida), a globally diverse and ecologically prominent group of bivalves. About 250 amblemine species occur in North America; however, this diversity is highly imperiled, with the majority of species at risk. Assessing and protecting this diversity has been hampered by the uncertain systematics of this group. This study sought to provide an improved phylogenetic framework for the Ambleminae. Currently, 37 North American genera are recognized in Ambleminae. Previous phylogenetic studies of amblemines highlighted the need for more extensive sampling due to the uncertainties arising from polyphyly of many currently recognized taxa. The present study incorporated all amblemine genera occurring in North America north of the Rio Grande, with multiple species of most genera, including the type species for all but seven genera. A total of 192 new DNA sequences were obtained for three mitochondrial gene regions: COI, 16S, and ND1. In combination with published data, this produced a data matrix incorporating 357 gene sequences for 143 operational taxonomic units, representing 107 currently recognized species. Inclusion of published data provides additional taxa and a summary of present molecular evidence on amblemine phylogeny, if at the cost of increasing the amount of missing data. Parsimony and Bayesian analyses suggest that most amblemine genera, as currently defined, are polyphyletic. At higher taxonomic levels, the tribes Quadrulini, Lampsilini, and Pleurobemini were supported; the extent of Amblemini and the relationships of some genera previously assigned to that tribe remain unclear. The eastern North American amblemines appear monophyletic. Gonidea and some Eurasian taxa place as probable sister taxa for the eastern North American Ambleminae. The results also highlight problematic taxa of particular interest for further work.