Character statements




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Character statements


Cephalic/prosomal region
1. Head shield segments (0 = five (cephalosoma/proterosoma); 4 = seven (carapace)).

This character refers to the number of post-acronal segments (or all head elements, if the acron did not exist) included under the anterior prosomal sclerite. Pycnogonida and some Arachnida (in particular Actinotrichida among the mites, Solifugae, Palpigradi and Schizomida), appear to retain the original euarthropod head sensu [1]. We consider the “sejugal furrow” and the gap between anterior coxae I-II and posterior coxae III-IV as evidence for existence of such a separate tagma in Actinotrichida. It subsumes Shultz’s [2] character 7 of the presence/absence of demarcation lines between the pro-, meso- and metapeltidium into this character. The choice of coding state 4 as “seven or more segments” tries to accommodate the seventh segment and its appendages, which may have its tergite reduced or subsumed into the head shied (see below) despite retaining the corresponding appendage under the carapace (e.g. Limulus).


2. Ophthalmic ridges (0 = absent; 1= present)

Extant Xiphosura present a pair of longitudinal crests passing near the region of the lateral eyes or equivalent area when lateral eyes are not evident. Similar structures are present in Plesiosiro [3] and ‘non-hypoctonid’ Thelyphonida (Mastigoproctus: [4]).


3. Carapace pleural margin (0 = absent; 1 = present).

The broad head shield of Xiphosura with its wide pleural margins has traditionally been treated as the plesiomorphic condition relative to arachnids (e.g. [5, character 2; 6, character 1]); although this was largely based on using trilobites and other arachnomorphs as out-groups. If Pycnogonida are used to polarise the character for euchelicerates, the wide head shield of Xiphosura could alternatively be treated as derived.


4. Cardiac lobe (0 = absent; 1 = present).

Extant Xiphosura express a cardiac lobe, a feature shared with several fossil species like Weinbergina, Eurypterida, and Chasmataspis.


5. Prosomal repugnatorial glands (0 = absent; 1 = present).

The presence of these glands producing a noxious secretion is a convincing autapomorphy of Opiliones ( e.g. [7, character 12]).


6. Cucullus (0 = absent; 1 = present).

This unique, hinged plate of indeterminate function covering the mouthparts is a convincing autapomorphy of Ricinulei. Females have been observed using the cucullus to hold the eggs.


7. Sternal region (0 = broad; 1 = narrow anteriorly; 2 = narrow posteriorly; 3 = narrow throughout).

Irrespective of whether a sternum is present, chelicerates vary in the degree to which the coxae are consolidated together on the ventral surface of the prosoma. Coding follows Shultz [2, character 12], except that the sternal area in all actinotrichid mites should be considered narrow [8]. Following Shultz [2] we consider the abutting of the coxae themselves and not their endites. The presence/absence of explicit gnathobases is coded as another character.


8. Prosomal sternum (0 = undivided; 1 = divided).

The sternum of Palpigradi, Amblypygi, Thelyphonida and Schizomida is divided into multiple sclerites. Other arachnids which have a sternum have only a single, undivided sclerite. Not applicable to taxa without a sternum.


9. Cephalic doublure (0 = absent; 1 = present).

In many trilobites and other Arachnomorpha, the cephalic exoskeleton continues onto the ventral side as a deflexed rim or doublure. The carapace folds in on itself where the chelicerae emerge in Thelyphonida and Trigonotarbida. This character is coded as ambiguous for the former.


Mouth and pharynx

10. Proboscis (0 = absent; 1 = present).

A proboscis formed from three antimere elements terminating in a Y-shaped mouth [9] is autapomorphic for Pycnogonida (e.g. [10, character 58). Attempts to homologise it with arachnid mouthparts have largely been proved unsuccessful – see comments in [11] – supporting its interpretation as a unique feeding adaptation for sea spiders.
11. Mouth (0 = directed anteroventrally; 1 = directed posteroventrally).

The mouth of Xiphosura points backward towards the gnathobases. This condition has been interpreted as plesiomorphic for Chelicerata. Several fossils appear to have a similar backward flexure of the digestive tube – e.g. trilobites – as indicated by the backward direction of the hypostome or remnants of the gut contents. We score pycnogonids as 0/1, since their mouth orientation is largely dependant on the form and orientation of the proboscis (see above).


12. Labium/tritosternum (0 = absent; 1 = present).

The labium, or tritosternum in some terminologies, is a separate sclerite generally forming the lower lip of the mouth. Shultz [2] considered it present in Palpigradi, Araneae, Amblypygi, Thelyphonida, Schizomida, Trigonotarbida, Ricinulei, and in some Anactinotrichida among the mites. In fact, the labium in Palpigradi does not share the same relative position when compared to other Arachnida. Traditional studies of morphology regard the palpigrade labium as a protosternum, i.e. associated with the cheliceral segment [12, 13]. Palpigradi is therefore scored 0 here for this character. Pseudoscorpions and Solifugae have a narrow medial sclerite related dorsally to the palpal coxal process. In Pseudoscorpionida, it is known as the so-called lophognath. It is crested and fits in the grooved ventral surface of the epistemolabral plate, or trophognath [12]. A similar elongated sclerite may be found in some Endeostigmata, e.g. Alycus ornithorhyncus Grandjean,1937, and Orthacarus tremli Zachvatkin, 1949 (Bimichaelidae) [14]. Because of its position, this sclerite is regarded as a deuto- or protosternum and thus not homologous to the labium as it is considered here. For a similar reason we exclude a ‘labium’ from phalangid Opiliones [15]. We regard this as more likely to be a sternapophysis associated with first leg rather the pedipalp [16].


13. Epistomal-labral plate (0 = absent; 1 = present).

The labrum is fused to the epistome in Solifugae, Pseudoscorpiones and Acari (see also [12], contra [2]). The whole structure protrudes noticeably between the chelicerae and is flanked by a pair of so-called lateral lips [17, 18]. The plate and lips are here scored together as a single character complex. The plate itself is sometimes referred to as a ‘beak’ or ‘rostrum’, especially in the solifuge literature.


14. Ventroposterior wall of pre-oral chamber (0 = formed by labium; 1 = formed by palpal coxae).

This specific morphology of the epipharyngeal sclerite was proposed by Shultz [19, character 5]) as a putative synapomorphy of Pedipalpi. Its condition in other arachnids without a labium (see previous character) was not discussed and we score such taxa here as (?). This highlights a general problem with many of the putative skeleto-muscular synapomorphies proposed for Pedipalpi, namely that they are sometimes hard to assess across all arachnids and their outgroups.


15. Stomatheca (0 = absent; 1 = present).

This character was defined by Shultz [20] as a preoral chamber formed by the lateral sides of the palpal coxae and ventrally by extensions of the coxae of leg 1 and to a lesser extent leg 2. Shultz treated it as a synapomorphy of Scorpiones and Opiliones, although it has been criticised [21], not least because it seems to be absent in stem-group (fossil) scorpions in which the coxae lack clearly developed apophyses. Shultz [2] speculated that early fossil scorpions may have had a stomatheca formed from soft lips in place of sclerotised projections, but the material available neither supports nor rejects this supposition.


16. Ingestion of solid material (0 = absent; 1 = present).

Extraintestinal digestion is typically regarded as an apomorphy of Arachnida. Xiphosura lack any evidence for extraoral digestion and its muscular gizzard is suited for macerating ingested solid material. There is no evidence for extraintestinal digestion in the non-arachnid fossils, and it is quite common to observe sediment [22] and even prey hard parts (e.g. within Sidneya [23]) among the gut remains. Pycnogonida have a pharyngeal filter apparatus that certainly precludes the intake of anything larger than subcellular material [24, 25]. The latter authors also described 180–220 small salivary glands per jaw of Ammothea hilgendorfi, suggesting the presence of a preoral digestion followed by mainly liquid material intake. However, Pycnogonida have a quite specialized diet and thus the taxon is scored as uncertain for this character. Several Opiliones and some mites (Opiliacarida, Oribatida, some Endeostigmata and free-living Astigmata, [26]) consume solid particles of food, although all of them have a well-developed preoral chamber and exhibit a certain degree of extraintestinal digestion. All other arachnids are liquid feeders and apparently digest their food preorally, often using specialised filtering devices (see e.g. character 17 and [7, character 218]) to hinder the uptake of particulate matter. Finally, for Paleozoic scorpions this character is uncertain given that they seem to lack a well-developed pre-oral chamber (see above).


17. Palate plate (0 = absent; 1 = present).

This specific modification of the dorsal pharynx wall with fringed platelets used as filters to trap particulate matter from the preorally digested food is an autapomorphy of Araneae; e.g. [7, character 159].


18. Three-branched epistomal skeleton (0 = absent; 1 = present).

This specific form of the epistome skeleton with three processes for the pharyngeal dilator muscles was described in detail by Shultz [20] who proposed it as a putative synapomorphy of (Scorpiones + Opiliones).


19. Intercheliceral epipharyngeal sclerite (0, absent; 1, present).

Coding follows Shultz [2, character 191].


20. Epipharyngeal sclerite large, projecting posteriorly (0, absent; 1, present; -, inapplicable due to absence of sclerite).

Coding follows Shultz [2, character 192].


Segmentation, tagmosis and telson
21. Metasoma (0 = absent; 1 = present).

Cotton & Braddy [27] defined this character as a “post-abdomen lacking appendages”. This definition is hard to apply in most chelicerates since some lack recognizable abdominal appendages altogether (e.g. Palpigradi, Opiliones, Pseudoscorpiones, Acari). We seek to redefine this tagmosis character here as a posterior, limbless set of segments, typically with a cylindrical exoskeleton which is, to a greater or lesser extent, set off from the mesosoma by a narrowing of the body. It is considered present in Xiphosura although obscured by the opisthosomal fusion.


22. Metasoma length (0 = three; 1 = five segments).

This character is inapplicable for taxa which do not express a metasomal tagmosis.


23. Well-developed post-anal telson (0= absent; 1= present).

Given that various potential outgroups among early Palaeozoic arthropods have a post-anal telson, its presence in Xiphosura, Scorpiones, Palpigradi, Thelyphonida and Schizomida is probably plesiomorphic for Chelicerata. No Recent sea spiders have a telson, but some fossil taxa do, including Palaeisopus [28]; see also Walossek & Müller [1] for discussions of ground patterns.


24. Flagellate telson (0 = absent; 1 = present).

In Palpigradi, Thelyphonida and (albeit in a shortened form) Schizomida, among the extant orders, and now Uraraneida, among the fossils, the telson is subdivided into multiple articles to form a distinctly flagellate, whip-like structure. Not applicable to taxa without a telson (see above).


25. Telson with venom glands (0 = absent; 1= present).

This feature is regarded here as an autapomorphy of Scorpiones.


26. Specialized male postanal flagellum (0 = absent; 1 = present).

This modified male flagellum plays an important role during courtship – the female holds onto the male flagellum and is pulled over a spermataphore – and is widely regarded as a convincing autapomorphy of Schizomida.


Chelicerae or deutocerebral appendage
27. Number of chelicerae articles (0 = three; 1 = two).

Solifugae, Pseudoscorpiones, Ricinulei and the Terapulmonata sensu Shultz [5] have only two cheliceral articles. This is widely accepted as the apomorphic condition compared to the three articles seen in other (euchelicerate) taxa. Whether two articles arose by the reduction or fusion of the existing three articles – and/or arose the same way in all taxa where they are present – is less well understood. For this reason, Acariformes is scored here as having two articles. Those supporting the hypothesis that Acariformes have a proximal trochanter in the chelicerae argued that the proximoventral region of the fixed digit is a fused remnant of this article. This is based on the attachment of the cheliceral retractor muscles in this region [29]. At least one pycnogonid species has been figured with four cheliceral articles (see e.g. [11]), but the significance of this observation is unclear. All Pycnogonida scored here have three-segmented chelifores.


28. Position of the cheliceral apotele (0 = articulates ventrally; 1 = articulates dorsally; 2 = articulates laterally).

In Solifuges, Pseudoscorpiones and both major groups of Acari the distalmost cheliceral segment (the apotele) articulates ventrally against the preceding article (e.g. [18]). In Tetrapulmonata and Ricinulei it is more or less dorsal (keeping in mind the torsion of the chelicerae in labidognath spiders). Three segmented chelicerae with an ‘elbowed’ articulation, such as in harvestmen and palpigrades, do not fit comfortably into either of these schemes and are tentatively coded as a separated character state.


29. Cheliceral ‘fang’ (0 = chelate; 1 = ‘clasp-knife’ type; 2 = Prostigmata styliform or ‘Anystys’-like chelicerae).

So-called ‘clasp-knife’ chelicerae, sensu Shear et al. [30], in which the apotele forms a fang rather than the movable finger of an explicitly chelate claw, are found in Araneae, Amblypygi, Thelyphonida, Trigonotarbida and Schizomida (see also [31]). The chelicerae of Ricinulei also approach this condition (see e.g. [32,, fig. 11]) with a longer ‘fang’ articulating against a shorter fixed tooth and are thus scored 0/1 here for this character. Several Prostigmata also have the fixed digitus reduced, but the movable digit is ventral and the condition is clearly non-homologous to the condition observed in Tetrapulmonata and is scored separately here.


30. Naked cheliceral fang (0 = absent; 1 = present).

Selden et al. [33] suggested that the loss of setae (or other similar sorts of projections) on the cheliceral fang was an autapomorphy of Araneae. Selden et al. [33, 34] demonstrated a naked fang in Attercopus; i.e. this character would support (Uraraneida + Araneae). The fang (or movable finger) in other arachnids seems usually to be setose and/or dentate. The condition observed in some mites is not considered as primarily homologous to this character.


31. Plagula ventralis (0 = absent, 1 = present).

This specific small sclerite between the fang and the basal segment of the chelicera has been proposed as a synapomorphy of Araneae, Amblypygi, Thelyphonida and Schizomida; [35].


32. Cheliceral venom gland (0 = absent; 1 = present).

Traditionally treated as an autapomorphy of Araneae, venom glands opening through the movable finger (or fang) of the chelicerae are certainly present in all the spiders scored here, except for Mesothelae which are widely regarded as the most basal extant clade [36]. Venom glands are also absent in the ingroup spider family Uloboridae (not scored here). Whether this absence reflects the ancestral condition of Araneae or an apomorphy of Mesothelae has yet to be resolved.


33. Endocephalic spinning apparatus (0 = absent; 1 = present).

The endocephalic spinning apparatus, together with its associated spinnerets or galea, is an autapomorphy of Pseudoscorpiones [37]. Whether these glands – which open on the movable finger of the chelicerae [38] – are homologous with the venom gland of spiders is unclear.


34. Cheliceral flagellum (0 = absent; 1 = present).

This sometimes complex projection from the dorsal surface of the fixed finger chelicerae in male Solifugae can take a number of forms, but is (secondarily) absent in the solpugid family Eremobatidae [39]. Its precise function in solifuges is not well understood. The character has been treated as an autapomorphy of this order. However, Harvey [37] regarded the cheliceral flagella of Solifugae and Pseudoscorpiones (see e.g. [38, fig. 2]) as potentially synapomorphic and this is reflected in the scoring here. Notice that the flagellum occurs on the fixed finger and should not be confused with the galea which is on the movable finger of the pseudoscorpion chelicerae (see previous character).


35. Chelicerocarapacal articulation (0 = absent; 1 = present).

A specific antero-lateral articulation between the carapace and the basal cheliceral article has been described from Solifugae and (most) Pseudoscorpiones, and suggested as a potential synapomorphy for these orders; see e.g. [5, character 13].


36. Mesal fusion of chelicerae (0 = absent; 1 = chelicerae proximally fused).

Mesal fusion of the chelicerae is seen in mites of the following groups: Tetranychoidea, Raphignathidae, Caligonellidae, Tarsonemina, and in some Tydeidae and Stigmaeidae [29]. A similar arrangement can also occur (certainly secondarily) in some spiders such as Filistatidae, but not among the taxa scored here.


37. Movable digit (0 = ‘Anystis’ type; 1 = styliform).

Among those Acariformes with a reduced digitus fixus, two conditions may be observed: the mostly curved, dorsally serrate digits of Trombidiidae, Halacaridae, Trombiculidae, Anystidae and Paratydeidae on the one hand and a smooth movable digit of Erythraeidae, Smariididae, Cheyletidae and Tetranychidae, suited for piercing, on the other. This character is only applicable to mites without the digitus fixus (cf. character 36, state 2).



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