Previous molecular analyses of higher hymenopteran relationships have largely been based on subjectively aligned ribosomal sequences (18S and 28S). Here, we reanalyze the 18S and 28S data (unaligned about 4.4 kb) using an objective and a semi-objective alignment approach, based on MAFFT and BAli-Phy, respectively. Furthermore, we present the first analyses of a substantial protein-coding data set (4.6 kb from one mitochondrial and four nuclear genes). Our results indicate that previous studies may have suffered from inflated support values due to subjective alignment of the ribosomal sequences, but apparently not from significant biases. The protein data provide independent confirmation of several earlier results, including the monophyly of non-xyelid hymenopterans, Pamphilioidea + Unicalcarida, Unicalcarida, Vespina, Apocrita, Proctotrupomorpha and core Proctotrupomorpha. The protein data confirm that Aculeata are nested within a paraphyletic Evaniomorpha, but cast doubt on the monophyly of Evanioidea. Combining the available morphological, ribosomal and protein-coding data, we examine the total-evidence signal as well as congruence and conflict among the three data sources. Despite an emerging consensus on many higher-level hymenopteran relationships, several problems remain unresolved or contentious, including rooting of the hymenopteran tree, relationships of the woodwasps, placement of Stephanoidea and Ceraphronoidea, and the sister group of Aculeata.

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Published in PLoS ONE, v. 8, no. 8, e69344.

© 2013 Klopfstein et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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