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Mol Biol Evol. 2005 May;22(5):1246-53. Epub 2005 Feb 9.

Multigene analyses of bilaterian animals corroborate the monophyly of Ecdysozoa, Lophotrochozoa, and Protostomia.

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  • 1Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and Département de Biochimie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Almost a decade ago, a new phylogeny of bilaterian animals was inferred from small-subunit ribosomal RNA (rRNA) that claimed the monophyly of two major groups of protostome animals: Ecdysozoa (e.g., arthropods, nematodes, onychophorans, and tardigrades) and Lophotrochozoa (e.g., annelids, molluscs, platyhelminths, brachiopods, and rotifers). However, it received little additional support. In fact, several multigene analyses strongly argued against this new phylogeny. These latter studies were based on a large amount of sequence data and therefore showed an apparently strong statistical support. Yet, they covered only a few taxa (those for which complete genomes were available), making systematic artifacts of tree reconstruction more probable. Here we expand this sparse taxonomic sampling and analyze a large data set (146 genes, 35,371 positions) from a diverse sample of animals (35 species). Our study demonstrates that the incongruences observed between rRNA and multigene analyses were indeed due to long-branch attraction artifacts, illustrating the enormous impact of systematic biases on phylogenomic studies. A refined analysis of our data set excluding the most biased genes provides strong support in favor of the new animal phylogeny and in addition suggests that urochordates are more closely related to vertebrates than are cephalochordates. These findings have important implications for the interpretation of morphological and genomic data.

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