Ribbon worm relationships: a phylogeny of the phylum Nemertea

Mikael Thollesson, Jon L. Norenburg

Abstract

We present the most extensive phylogenetic analysis to date, to our knowledge, of higher–level nemertean relationships, based on sequence data from four different genes (the nuclear genes for nuclear large subunit rRNA (28S rRNA) and histone H3 (H3), and the mitochondrial genes for mitochondrial large subunit rRNA (16S rRNA) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI)). Well–supported clades are, in general, compatible with earlier, more limited, analyses, and current classification is largely in agreement with our results, although there are some notable exceptions. Bdellonemertea (represented by Malacobdella) is found to be a part of Monostilifera, and Polystilifera is the monophyletic sister group to Monostilifera. Cratenemertidae is the sister group to the remaining monostiliferans (including Malacobdella), a group to which we apply the new name Distromatonemertea. Heteronemertea is monophyletic and forms a clade with Hubrechtella; for this clade we introduce the name Pilidiophora. Finally, Pilidiophora and Hoplonemertea (with Malacobdella) form a monophyletic group, and we introduce the name Neonemertea to refer to this group. Palaeonemertea is found to be non–monophyletic and basal among nemerteans.