Celebrating 300 years since the birth of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), a meeting was held in June 2007 to review recent progress made in understanding the origins and evolutionary radiation of the animals. The year 2008 celebrates the 250th anniversary of the publication of the 10th edition of Linnaeus' Systema Naturae, generally considered to be the starting point of zoological nomenclature. With subsequent advances in comparative taxonomic and systematic studies, Darwin's discovery of evolution by natural selection, the birth of phylogenetic systematics, and the wider interest in biodiversity, it is salutary to consider that many of the major advances in our understanding of animal evolution have been made in recent years. Phylogenetic systematics, drawing from evidence provided by genotype, phenotype and an understanding of the link between them through comparative embryological and evolutionary developmental studies, has provided a wide consensus of the major branching patterns of the tree of life. More importantly, the integrated approaches discussed in the 16 contributions to this volume highlight the identity and nature of problematic taxa, the missing data, errors in existing analytical procedures and the promise of a wealth of additional characters from genomes that need to be accumulated and assessed in providing a definitive Systema Naturae.
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