▪ Abstract 

Molecular tools have profoundly rearranged our understanding of metazoan phylogeny. Initially based on the nuclear small ribosomal subunit (SSU or 18S) gene, recent hypotheses have been corroborated by several sources of data (including the nuclear large ribosomal subunit, Hox genes, mitochondrial gene order, concatenated mitochondrial genes, and the myosin II heavy chain gene). Herein, the evidence supporting our current understanding is discussed on a clade by clade basis. Bilaterian animals consist of three clades: Deuterostomia, Lophotrochozoa, and Ecdysozoa. Each clade is supported by molecular and morphological data. Deuterostomia is smaller than traditionally recognized, consisting of hemichordates, echinoderms, chordates, and (an enigmatic worm-like animal). Lophotrochozoa groups animals with a lophophore feeding apparatus (Brachiopoda, Bryozoa, and Phoronida) and trochophore larvae (e.g., annelids and mollusk), as well as several other recognized phyla (e.g., platyhelmin thes, sipunculans, nemerteans). Ecdysozoa comprises molting animals (e.g., arthropods, nematodes, tardigrades, priapulids), grouping together two major model organisms ( and ) in the same lineage. Platyhelminthes do not appear to be monophyletic, with Acoelomorpha holding a basal position in Bilateria. Before the emergence of bilateral animals, sponges, ctenophorans, cnidarians, and placozoans split from the main animal lineage, but order of divergence is less than certain. Many questions persist concerning relationships within Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa, poriferan monophyly, and the placement of many less-studied taxa (e.g., kinorhynchs, gastrotrichs, gnathostomulids, and entoprocts).


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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