Molecules, development and fossils in the study of metazoan evolution; Articulata versus Ecdysozoa revisited

  • Giribet G
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Two conflicting hypotheses of protostome relationships, Articulata and Ecdysozoa, are reviewed by evaluating the evidence in favor and against each one of them. Understanding early embryonic development and segmentation in non-arthropod non-annelid protostomes seems crucial to the debate. New ways of coding metazoan matrices, avoiding ground-patterns and higher taxa, and incorporating fossil evidence seems the best way to avoid circular debates. Molecular data served as the catalyzer for the Ecdysozoa hypothesis, although morphological support had been implicitly suggested. Most molecular analyses published so far have shown some support for Ecdysozoa, whereas none has ever supported Articulata. Here, new analyses of up to four nuclear loci, including 18S rRNA, myosin heavy chain II, histone H3 and elongation factor 1-α are conducted to test the molecular support for Ecdysozoa, and, at least under some parameter sets, most data sets show a clade formed by the molting animals. In contrast, support for Articulata is not found under any analytical conditions.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Articulata
  • Cladistic analysis
  • Ecdysozoa
  • Metazoa
  • Molecular systematics
  • Ribosomal data analysis

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