, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 81-115

Phylogeny of the Acanthocephala based on morphological characters

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Abstract

Only four previous studies of relationships among acanthocephalans have included cladistic analyses, and knowledge of the phylogeny of the group has not kept pace with that of other taxa. The purpose of this study is to provide a more comprehensive analysis of the phylogenetic relationships among members of the phylum Acanthocephala using morphological characters. The most appropriate outgroups are those that share a common early cell-cleavage pattern (polar placement of centrioles), such as the Rotifera, rather than the Priapulida (meridional placement of centrioles) to provide character polarity based on common ancestry rather than a general similarity likely due to convergence of body shapes. The phylogeny of 22 species of the Acanthocephala was evaluated based on 138 binary and multistate characters derived from comparative morphological and ontogenetic studies. Three assumptions of cement gland structure were tested: (i) the plesiomorphic type of cement glands in the Rotifera, as the sister group, is undetermined; (ii) non-syncytial cement glands are plesiomorphic; and (iii) syncytial cement glands are plesiomorphic. The results were used to test an early move of Tegorhynchus pectinarius to Koronacantha and to evaluate the relationship between Tegorhynchus and Illiosentis. Analysis of the data-set for each of these assumptions of cement gland structure produced the same single most parsimonious tree topology. Using Assumptions i and ii for the cement glands, the trees were the same length (length = 404 steps, CI = 0.545, CIX = 0.517, HI = 0.455, HIX = 0.483, RI = 0.670, RC = 0.365). Using Assumption iii, the tree was three steps longer (length = 408 steps, CI = 0.539, CIX = 0.512, HI = 0.461, HIX = 0.488, RI = 0.665, RC = 0.359). The tree indicates that the Palaeacanthocephala and Eoacanthocephala both are monophyletic and are sister taxa. The members of the Archiacanthocephala are basal to the other two clades, but do not themselves form a clade. The results provide strong support for the Palaeacanthocephala and the Eoacanthocephala and the hypothesis that the Eoacanthocephala is the most primitive group is not supported. Little support for the Archiacanthocephala as a monophyletic group was provided by the analysis. Support is provided for the recognition of Tegorhynchus and Illiosentis as distinct taxa, as well as the transfer of T. pectinarius to Koronacantha.