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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Apr 27;363(1496):1513-22. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2007.2241.

Assembling the lophotrochozoan (=spiralian) tree of life.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The advent of numerical methods for analysing phylogenetic relationships, along with the study of morphology and molecular data, has driven our understanding of animal relationships for the past three decades. Within the protostome branch of the animal tree of life, these data have sufficed to establish its two main side branches, the moulting Ecdysozoa and the non-moulting Lophotrochozoa. In this review, I explore our current knowledge of protostome relationships and discuss progress and future perspectives and strategies to increase resolution within the main lophotrochozoan clades. Novel approaches to coding morphological characters are needed by scoring real observations on species selected as terminals. Still, methodological issues, for example, how to deal with inapplicable characters or the coding of absences, may require novel algorithmic developments. Taxon sampling is another key issue, as phyla should include enough species so as to represent their span of anatomical disparity. On the molecular side, phylogenomics is playing an increasingly important role in elucidating animal relationships, but genomic sampling is still fairly limited within the lophotrochozoan protostomes, for which only three phyla are represented in currently available phylogenies. Future work should therefore concentrate on generating novel morphological observations and on producing genomic data for the lophotrochozoan side of the animal tree of life.

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