Open Access Open Badges Research article

EST based phylogenomics of Syndermata questions monophyly of Eurotatoria

Alexander Witek1, Holger Herlyn2, Achim Meyer3, Louis Boell4, Gregor Bucher4 and Thomas Hankeln1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Molecular Genetics, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, J. J.-Becherweg 32, D-55099 Mainz, Germany

2 Institute of Anthropology, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Colonel-Kleinmann-Weg 2, D-55099 Mainz, Germany

3 Institute of Zoology, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Müllerweg 6, D-55099 Mainz, Germany

4 Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Institute of Anthropology and Zoology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, J. v. Liebig-Weg 11, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:345  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-345

Published: 29 December 2008



The metazoan taxon Syndermata comprising Rotifera (in the classical sense of Monogononta+Bdelloidea+Seisonidea) and Acanthocephala has raised several hypotheses connected to the phylogeny of these animal groups and the included subtaxa. While the monophyletic origin of Syndermata and Acanthocephala is well established based on morphological and molecular data, the phylogenetic position of Syndermata within Spiralia, the monophyletic origin of Monogononta, Bdelloidea, and Seisonidea and the acanthocephalan sister group are still a matter of debate. The comparison of the alternative hypotheses suggests that testing the phylogenetic validity of Eurotatoria (Monogononta+Bdelloidea) is the key to unravel the phylogenetic relations within Syndermata. The syndermatan phylogeny in turn is a prerequisite for reconstructing the evolution of the acanthocephalan endoparasitism.


Here we present our results from a phylogenomic approach studying i) the phylogenetic position of Syndermata within Spiralia, ii) the monophyletic origin of monogononts and bdelloids and iii) the phylogenetic relations of the latter two taxa to acanthocephalans. For this analysis we have generated EST libraries of Pomphorhynchus laevis, Echinorhynchus truttae (Acanthocephala) and Brachionus plicatilis (Monogononta). By extending these data with database entries of B. plicatilis, Philodina roseola (Bdelloidea) and 25 additional metazoan species, we conducted phylogenetic reconstructions based on 79 ribosomal proteins using maximum likelihood and bayesian approaches. Our findings suggest that the phylogenetic position of Syndermata within Spiralia is close to Platyhelminthes, that Eurotatoria are not monophyletic and that bdelloids are more closely related to acanthocephalans than monogononts.


Mapping morphological character evolution onto molecular phylogeny suggests the (partial or complete) reduction of the corona and the emergence of a retractable anterior end (rostrum, proboscis) before the separation of Acanthocephala. In particular, the evolution of a rostrum might have been a key event leading to the later evolution of the acanthocephalan endoparasitism, given the enormous relevance of the proboscis for anchoring of the adults to the definitive hosts' intestinal wall.