Acta Parasitologica

, 54:310 | Cite as

The phylogeny of the Lepocreadioidea (Platyhelminthes, Digenea) inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial genes: Implications for their systematics and evolution

  • Rodney A. Bray
  • Andrea Waeschenbach
  • Thomas H. Cribb
  • Gareth D. Weedall
  • Patricia Dyal
  • D. T. J. Littlewood


The phylogenetic relationships of representative species of the superfamily Lepocreadioidea were assessed using partial lsrDNA and nad1 sequences. Forty-two members of the family Lepocreadiidae, six putative members of the Enenteridae, six gyliauchenid species and one Gorgocephalidae, were studied along with 22 species representing 8 families. The Lepocreadioidea is found to be monophyletic, except for the two species of the putative enenterid genus Cadenatella, which are found to be only distantly related to the lepocreadioids. The Lepocreadioidea is formed of five clades in a polytomy, the Gorgocephalidae, a clade containing the Enenteridae and Gyliauchenidae, a small clade of atypical lepocreadiines and the deep-sea lepidapedine lepocreadiids, a small clade consisting of a freshwater form and a group of shallow-water putative lepidapedines and the final clade includes the remaining lepocreadiids. Thus, the generally accepted concept of the Lepocreadiidae is polyphyletic. The Enenteridae (minus Cadenatella) and the Gyliauchenidae are jointly and individually monophyletic, and are sister groups. The nad1 gene on its own places a deep-sea lepocreadiine with the deep-sea lepidapedines, whereas lsrDNA, combined sequences and morphology place this deep-sea lepocreadiine within a group of typical lepocreadiids. It could not be demonstrated that a significant proportion of sites in the nad1 gene evolved under positive selection; this anomalous relationship therefore remains unexplained. Most deep-sea species are in a monophyletic group, a few of which also occur in shallow waters, retaining some characters of the deep-sea clade. Many lepocreadioid species infect herbivorous fish, and it may be that the recently discovered life-cycle involving a bivalve first intermediate host and metacercariae encysted on vegetation is a common life-cycle pattern. The host relationships show no indication of co-speciation, although the host-spectrums exhibited are not random, with related worms tending to utilize related hosts. There are, however, many exceptions. Morphology is found to be of limited value in indicating higher level relationships. For example, even with the benefit of hindsight the gyliauchenids show little morphological similarity to their sister group, the Enenteridae.


Lepocreadiidae Plagiorchiida Digenea deep-sea phylogeny lsrDNA nad1 dN/dS selection 

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Copyright information

© © Versita Warsaw and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rodney A. Bray
    • 1
  • Andrea Waeschenbach
    • 1
  • Thomas H. Cribb
    • 2
  • Gareth D. Weedall
    • 3
  • Patricia Dyal
    • 1
  • D. T. J. Littlewood
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoologythe Natural History MuseumLondonUK
  2. 2.Centre for Marine Studies and Department of Microbiology and ParasitologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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