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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54576. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054576. Epub 2013 Jan 30.

Agent of whirling disease meets orphan worm: phylogenomic analyses firmly place Myxozoa in Cnidaria.

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Zoological Museum, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


Myxozoa are microscopic obligate endoparasites with complex live cycles. Representatives are Myxobolus cerebralis, the causative agent of whirling disease in salmonids, and the enigmatic "orphan worm" Buddenbrockia plumatellae parasitizing in Bryozoa. Originally, Myxozoa were classified as protists, but later several metazoan characteristics were reported. However, their phylogenetic relationships remained doubtful. Some molecular phylogenetic analyses placed them as sister group to or even within Bilateria, whereas the possession of polar capsules that are similar to nematocysts of Cnidaria and of minicollagen genes suggest a close relationship between Myxozoa and Cnidaria. EST data of Buddenbrockia also indicated a cnidarian origin of Myxozoa, but were not sufficient to reject a closer relationship to bilaterians. Phylogenomic analyses of new genomic sequences of Myxobolus cerebralis firmly place Myxozoa as sister group to Medusozoa within Cnidaria. Based on the new dataset, the alternative hypothesis that Myxozoa form a clade with Bilateria can be rejected using topology tests. Sensitivity analyses indicate that this result is not affected by long branch attraction artifacts or compositional bias.

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