Phylogenetic analyses of conserved core genes have disentangled most of the ancient relationships in Archaea. However, some groups remain debated, like the DPANN, a deep-branching super-phylum composed of nanosized archaea with reduced genomes. Among these, the Nanohaloarchaea require high-salt concentrations for growth. Their discovery in 2012 was significant because they represent, together with Halobacteria (a Class belonging to Euryarchaeota), the only two described lineages of extreme halophilic archaea. The phylogenetic position of Nanohaloarchaea is highly debated, being alternatively proposed as the sister-lineage of Halobacteria or a member of the DPANN super-phylum. Pinpointing the phylogenetic position of extreme halophilic archaea is important to improve our knowledge of the deep evolutionary history of Archaea and the molecular adaptive processes and evolutionary paths that allowed their emergence. Using comparative genomic approaches, we identified 258 markers carrying a reliable phylogenetic signal. By combining strategies limiting the impact of biases on phylogenetic inference, we showed that Nanohaloarchaea and Halobacteria represent two independent lines that derived from two distinct but related methanogen Class II lineages. This implies that adaptation to high salinity emerged twice independently in Archaea and indicates that emergence of Nanohaloarchaea within DPANN in previous studies is likely the consequence of a tree reconstruction artifact, challenging the existence of this super-phylum.
Keywords: Compositional bias; Long branch attraction; Rate signal; Slow-fast method; Stenosarchaea; Substitutional saturation.
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