Phylogenomics and biogeography of leptonetid spiders (Araneae:Leptonetidae)
Leptonetidae are rarely encountered spiders, usually associated with caves and mesic habitats, and are disjunctly distributed across the Holarctic. Data from ultraconserved elements (UCEs) were used in concatenated and coalescent-based analyses to estimate the phylogenetic history of the family. Our taxon sample included close outgroups, and 90% of described leptonetid genera, with denser sampling in North America and Mediterranean Europe. Two data matrices were assembled and analysed; the
... analysed; the first 'relaxed' matrix includes the maximum number of loci and the second 'strict' matrix is limited to the same set of core orthologs but with flanking introns mostly removed. A molecular dating analysis incorporating fossil and geological calibration points was used to estimate divergence times, and dispersal–extinction–cladogenesis analysis (DEC) was used to infer ancestral distributions. Analysis of both data matrices using maximum likelihood and coalescent-based methods supports the monophyly of Archoleptonetinae and Leptonetinae. However, relationships among Archoleptonetinae, Leptonetinae, and Austrochiloidea are poorly supported and remain unresolved. Archoleptonetinae is elevated to family rank Archoleptonetidae (new rank) and Leptonetidae (new status) is restricted to include only members of the subfamily Leptonetinae; a taxonomic review with morphological diagnoses is provided for both families. Four well supported lineages within Leptonetidae (new status) are recovered: (1) the Calileptoneta group, (2) the Leptoneta group, (3) the Paraleptoneta group, and (4) the Protoleptoneta group. Most genera within Leptonetidae are monophyletic, although Barusia, Cataleptoneta, and Leptoneta include misplaced species and require taxonomic revision. The origin of Archoleptonetidae (new rank), Leptonetidae, and the four main lineages within Leptonetidae date to the Cretaceous. DEC analysis infers the Leptoneta and Paraleptoneta groups to have ancestral distributions restricted to Mediterranean Europe, whereas the Calileptoneta and Protoleptoneta groups include genera with ancestral distributions spanning eastern and western North America, Mediterranean Europe, and east Asia. Based on a combination of biology, estimated divergence times, and inferred ancestral distributions we hypothesise that Leptonetidae was once widespread across the Holarctic and their present distributions are largely the result of vicariance. Given the wide disjunctions between taxa, we broadly interpret the family as a Holarctic relict fauna and hypothesise that they were once part of the Boreotropical forest ecosystem.