Send to

Choose Destination
Syst Biol. 2001 Nov-Dec;50(6):848-59.

Molecular data indicate the protostome affinity of brachiopods.

Author information

Centre de Génétique Moléculaire, UPR 9061 CNRS, Bâtiment 26, avenue de la Terrasse, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


Although the phylogenetic position of brachiopods has always been subject to debate, many authors place them as a sister group to deuterostomes on the basis of morphological and developmental characters. However, molecular phylogeny consistently places them among protostomes. More precisely, brachiopods are predicted to branch inside the lophotrochozoan assemblage, together with annelids, molluscs, nemerteans, flatworms, and others. That result has been criticized on the basis of (1) prior knowledge of brachiopod morphology and (2) the known limitations of molecular phylogenies. Here I review recent data of molecular origin, particularly those displaying qualitative properties close to those of morphological characters. The complement of Hox genes present in all metazoa tested to date has proved to be a powerful tool for broad phylogenetic reconstruction. The mitochondrial genome also provides qualitative characters, showing discrete events of gene rearrangements. After discussing the data and the way they should be interpreted in the perspective of several hypotheses for metazoan phylogeny, I conclude that they argue strongly in favor of the protostome (and lophotrochozoan) affinity of the brachiopods. There is therefore a need for a reinterpretation of brachiopod morphological and developmental characters. I also identify some research axes on brachiopod morphology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center