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Proc Biol Sci. Apr 7, 1998; 265(1396): 631–640.
PMCID: PMC1689013

A robust molecular phylogeny of the Tricladida (Platyhelminthes: Seriata) with a discussion on morphological synapomorphies.


The suborder Tricladida (Platyhelminthes: Turbellaria, Seriata) comprises most well-known species of free-living flatworms. Four infraorders are recognized: (i) the Maricola (marine planarians); (ii) the Cavernicola (a group of primarily cavernicolan planarians); (iii) the Paludicola (freshwater planarians); and (iv) the Terricola (land planarians). The phylogenetic relationships among these infraorders have been analysed using morphological characters, but they remain uncertain. Here we analyse the phylogeny and classification of the Tricladida, with additional, independent, molecular data from complete sequences of 18S rDNA and 18S rRNA. We use maximum parsimony and neighbour-joining methods and the characterization of a unique gene duplication event involving the Terricola and the dugesiids to reconstruct the phylogeny. The results show that the Maricola is monophyletic and is the primitive sister group to the rest of the Tricladida (the Paludicola plus the Terricola). The Paludicola are paraphyletic since the Terricola and one paludicolan family, the Dugesiidae, share a more recent common ancestor than the dugesiids with other paludicolans (dendrocoelids and planariids). A reassessment of morphological evidence may confirm the apparent redundancy of the existing infraorders Paludicola and Terricola. In the meantime, we suggest replacing the Paludicola and Terricola with a new clade, the Continenticola, which comprises the families Dugesiidae, Planariidae, Dendrocoelidae and the Terricola.

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Selected References

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Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society


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