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Int J Parasitol. 2003 Jul;33(7):733-55.

Phylogeny and classification of the Digenea (Platyhelminthes: Trematoda).

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Parasitic Worms Division, Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.


Complete small subunit ribosomal RNA gene (ssrDNA) and partial (D1-D3) large subunit ribosomal RNA gene (lsrDNA) sequences were used to estimate the phylogeny of the Digenea via maximum parsimony and Bayesian inference. Here we contribute 80 new ssrDNA and 124 new lsrDNA sequences. Fully complementary data sets of the two genes were assembled from newly generated and previously published sequences and comprised 163 digenean taxa representing 77 nominal families and seven aspidogastrean outgroup taxa representing three families. Analyses were conducted on the genes independently as well as combined and separate analyses including only the higher plagiorchiidan taxa were performed using a reduced-taxon alignment including additional characters that could not be otherwise unambiguously aligned. The combined data analyses yielded the most strongly supported results and differences between the two methods of analysis were primarily in their degree of resolution. The Bayesian analysis including all taxa and characters, and incorporating a model of nucleotide substitution (general-time-reversible with among-site rate heterogeneity), was considered the best estimate of the phylogeny and was used to evaluate their classification and evolution. In broad terms, the Digenea forms a dichotomy that is split between a lineage leading to the Brachylaimoidea, Diplostomoidea and Schistosomatoidea (collectively the Diplostomida nomen novum (nom. nov.)) and the remainder of the Digenea (the Plagiorchiida), in which the Bivesiculata nom. nov. and Transversotremata nom. nov. form the two most basal lineages, followed by the Hemiurata. The remainder of the Plagiorchiida forms a large number of independent lineages leading to the crown clade Xiphidiata nom. nov. that comprises the Allocreadioidea, Gorgoderoidea, Microphalloidea and Plagiorchioidea, which are united by the presence of a penetrating stylet in their cercariae. Although a majority of families and to a lesser degree, superfamilies are supported as currently defined, the traditional divisions of the Echinostomida, Plagiorchiida and Strigeida were found to comprise non-natural assemblages. Therefore, the membership of established higher taxa are emended, new taxa erected and a revised, phylogenetically based classification proposed and discussed in light of ontogeny, morphology and taxonomic history.

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