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J Parasitol. 1995 Dec;81(6):961-7.

The demise of a phylum of protists: phylogeny of Myxozoa and other parasitic cnidaria.

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School of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point 23062, USA.


The notion that members of the phylum Myxozoa Grassé, 1970 do not properly belong in classifications of protists has frequently been suggested because the infective spores of these parasites are not unicellular. Systematists have failed to be decisive about myxozoan phylogenetic affinities, either finding the suggestion of a cnidarian connection to be preposterous or considering the recent suggestion of a relationship with nematodes to be an obvious failure of molecular phylogenetics. Thus, the group has remained in classifications as a protistan phylum in its own right. The ultrastructure of the development of myxozoans was critically re-examined in order to more fully explore the possibility of morphological synapomorphies with metazoan taxa. These morphological characters, in combination with small ribosomal subunit gene sequences, were used in a phylogenetic analysis in order to assess myxozoan origins. The results unequivocally support the inclusion of myxozoans as a clade of highly derived parasitic cnidarians, and as sister taxon to the narcomedusan Polypodium hydriforme. Reassessment of myxozoans as metazoans reveals terminal differentiation, typical metazoan cellular junctions, and collagen production. Their "polar capsules" are redescribed as typical nematocysts bearing atrichous isorhiza. Insofar as taxa cannot be contained within other taxa of equal rank, the phylum Myxozoa is abandoned and it is recommended that the group as a whole be removed from all protistan classifications and placed in a more comprehensive cnidarian system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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