, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 66-70

Close phylogenetic relationship between vestimentifera (tube worms) and annelida revealed by the amino acid sequence of elongation factor-lα

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To clarify the phylogenetic position of Vestimentifera (tube worms), 346-bp fragments of the elongation factor-lα (EF-lα) gene (939–1286 according to the numbering of the human gene) of a vestimentiferan, Lamellibrachia sp., a sternaspid polychaete, Sternaspis scutata, an earthworm, Pheretima sp., and a gastropod, Alviniconcha hessleri, were sequenced. From the amino acid sequences of these EF-lα, and those of two other vertebrates and two arthropods, phylogenetic relationships were deduced by the maximum likelihood (ML) method, by which the phylogenetic tree can be inferred without assuming constancy of the molecular evolutionary rate. For the ML tree and all of seven alternative trees, whose log-likelihoods could not be discriminated from that of the ML tree by the criterion of the standard error, the vestimentiferan, the polychaete, and the oligochaete formed a clade, excluding the arthropods and the gastropod as outgroups. This result is convincing evidence that Vestimentifera are protostomes that are closely related to Annelida. The ML tree suggests that Vestimentifera are more closely related to Polychaeta than to Oligochaeta, though the data were not sufficient to discriminate these three groups at a significant level. From recent evidence such as morphological characteristics and molecular information, it may safely be said that vestimentiferans should be included in the Annelida provided this phylum contains polychaetes and oligochaetes.