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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2001 Nov;21(2):218-30.

A molecular phylogenetic framework for the phylum Ctenophora using 18S rRNA genes.

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Department of Molecular Diversity, Diversa Corp., 4955 Directors Place, San Diego, California 92121, USA.


This paper presents the first molecular phylogenetic analysis of the phylum Ctenophora, by use of 18S ribosomal RNA sequences from most of the major taxa. The ctenophores form a distinct monophyletic group that, based on this gene phylogeny, is most closely related to the cnidarians. Our results suggest that the ancestral ctenophore was tentaculate and cydippid-like and that the presently recognized order Cydippida forms a polyphyletic group. The other ctenophore orders that we studied (Lobata, Beroida, and Platyctenida) are secondarily derived from cydippid-like ancestors, a conclusion that is also supported by developmental and morphological data. The very short evolutionary distances between characterized ctenophore 18S rRNA gene sequences suggests that extant ctenophores are derived from a recent common ancestor. This has important consequences for future studies and for an understanding of the evolution of the metazoans.

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