, Volume 558, Issue 1, pp 53-60

First online:

A Family Level Analysis of Tardigrade Phylogeny

  • P. Brent NicholsAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of South Florida
  • , Diane R. NelsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, East Tennessee State University
  • , James R. GareyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of South Florida Email author 

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In the present study a character data set suitable for cladistic analysis at the family level was developed. A data matrix consisting of 50 morphological characters from 15 families of tardigrades was analyzed by maximum parsimony. Kinorhynchs, loriciferans, and gastrotrichs were used as outgroups. The results agree with the currently accepted hypothesis that Eutardigrada and Heterotardigrada are distinct monophyletic groups. Among the eutardigrades, Eohypsibiidae was found to be a sister group to Macrobiotidae+Hypsibiidae, while Milnesiidae was the basal eutardigrade family. The basal heterotardigrade family was found to be Oreellidae. Echiniscoideans grouped with some traditional Arthrotardigrada (Renaudarctidae, Coronarctidae+Batillipedidae) suggesting that the arthrotardigrades are not monophyletic. The 18S rRNA gene sequence of Batillipes mirus Richters, 1909 and Calohypsibius schusteri Nelson & McGlothlin, 1996 were obtained and their addition to a previously published dataset supports the monophyly of Heterotardigrada and of Parachela versus Apochela within the Eutardigrada.


tardigrada systematics cladistics evolution phylogeny 18S rRNA