Based on embryological and morphological evidence, Lophophorata was long considered to be the sister or paraphyletic stem group of Deuterostomia. By contrast, molecular data have consistently indicated that the three lophophorate lineages, Ectoprocta, Brachiopoda and Phoronida, are more closely related to trochozoans (annelids, molluscs and related groups) than to deuterostomes. For this reason, the lophophorate groups and Trochozoa were united to Lophotrochozoa. However, the relationships of the lophophorate lineages within Lophotrochozoa are still largely unresolved. Maximum-likelihood and Bayesian analyses were performed based on a dataset comprising 11,445 amino acid positions derived from 79 ribosomal proteins of 39 metazoan taxa including new sequences obtained from a brachiopod and a phoronid. These analyses show that the three lophophorate lineages are affiliated with trochozoan rather than deuterostome phyla. All hypotheses claiming that they are more closely related to Deuterostomia than to Protostomia can be rejected by topology testing. Monophyly of lophophorates was not recovered but that of Bryozoa including Ectoprocta and Entoprocta and monophyly of Brachiozoa including Brachiopoda and Phoronida were strongly supported. Alternative hypotheses that are refuted include (i) Brachiozoa as the sister group of Mollusca, (ii) ectoprocts as sister to all other Lophotrochozoa including Platyzoa, and (iii) ectoprocts as sister or to all other protostomes except chaetognaths.
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