▪ Abstract Despite extraordinary diversity of free-living species, a comparatively small fraction of nematodes are parasites of plants. These parasites represent at least three disparate clades in the nematode tree of life, as inferred from rRNA sequences. Plant parasites share functional similarities regarding feeding, but many similarities in feeding structures result from convergent evolution and have fundamentally different developmental origins. Although Tylenchida rRNA phylogenies are not fully resolved, they strongly support convergent evolution of sedentary endoparasitism and plant nurse cells in cyst and root-knot nematodes. This result has critical implications for using model systems and genomics to identify and characterize parasitism genes for representatives of this clade. Phylogenetic studies reveal that plant parasites have rich and complex evolutionary histories that involve multiple transitions to plant parasitism and the possible use of genes obtained by horizontal transfer from prokaryotes. Developing a fuller understanding of plant parasitism will require integrating more comprehensive and resolved phylogenies with appropriate choices of model organisms and comparative evolutionary methods.
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