Article

To Be or Not to Be a Flatworm: The Acoel Controversy

Institute of Zoology and Center for Molecular Biosciences, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.53). 02/2009; 4(5):e5502. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005502
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Since first described, acoels were considered members of the flatworms (Platyhelminthes). However, no clear synapomorphies among the three large flatworm taxa -- the Catenulida, the Acoelomorpha and the Rhabditophora -- have been characterized to date. Molecular phylogenies, on the other hand, commonly positioned acoels separate from other flatworms. Accordingly, our own multi-locus phylogenetic analysis using 43 genes and 23 animal species places the acoel flatworm Isodiametra pulchra at the base of all Bilateria, distant from other flatworms. By contrast, novel data on the distribution and proliferation of stem cells and the specific mode of epidermal replacement constitute a strong synapomorphy for the Acoela plus the major group of flatworms, the Rhabditophora. The expression of a piwi-like gene not only in gonadal, but also in adult somatic stem cells is another unique feature among bilaterians. These two independent stem-cell-related characters put the Acoela into the Platyhelminthes-Lophotrochozoa clade and account for the most parsimonious evolutionary explanation of epidermal cell renewal in the Bilateria. Most available multigene analyses produce conflicting results regarding the position of the acoels in the tree of life. Given these phylogenomic conflicts and the contradiction of developmental and morphological data with phylogenomic results, the monophyly of the phylum Platyhelminthes and the position of the Acoela remain unresolved. By these data, both the inclusion of Acoela within Platyhelminthes, and their separation from flatworms as basal bilaterians are well-supported alternatives.

Download full-text

Full-text

Available from: Ulrich Technau, Jun 30, 2015
0 Followers
 · 
173 Views
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Acoels are among the simplest worms and therefore have often been pivotal in discussions of the origin of the Bilateria. Initially thought primitive because of their "planula-like" morphology, including their lumenless digestive system, they were subsequently dismissed by many morphologists as a specialized clade of the Platyhelminthes. However, since molecular phylogenies placed them outside the Platyhelminthes and outside all other phyla at the base of the Bilateria, they became the focus of renewed debate and research. We review what is currently known of acoels, including information regarding their morphology, development, systematics, and phylogenetic relationships, and put some of these topics in a historical perspective to show how the application of new methods contributed to the progress in understanding these animals. Taking all available data into consideration, clear-cut conclusions cannot be made; however, in our view it becomes successively clearer that acoelomorphs are a "basal" but "divergent" branch of the Bilateria.
    Organisms Diversity & Evolution 06/2013; 13(2):267-286. DOI:10.1007/s13127-012-0112-4 · 3.37 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Nemertodermatida is a small taxon of marine worm-like animals; its position in the tree of life is highly contested. The musculature of Nemertoderma westbladi and Meara stichopi is studied here in detail using fluorescent phalloidin and confocal microscopy. In both species, the musculature is composed of an outer layer of circular and an inner layer of longitudinal musculature, diagonal muscles form a distinct layer in N. westbladi, but in M. stichopi these fibres connect to both other layers. The supraterminally opening male pore and antrum are formed by invagination of the whole body-wall in both species, and the seminal vesicle is lined by a thin net of musculature only in full male maturity. Modifications of the ventral body-wall adjacent to the mouth are small and transient in N. westbladi including no extra musculature, whereas it consists of additional strong U-shaped musculature in M. stichopi. Myogenesis in N. westbladi is not finished in hatchlings and will be completed dorsally in juvenile specimens and ventrally in male mature ones, after the loss of the mouth. Musculature between the two species differs considerably and might give insights into the internal relationships of Nemertodermatida and might prove to be useful in studies investigating their phylogenetic position. More data of other species and developmental changes are needed.
    Zoomorphology 03/2013; DOI:10.1007/s00435-013-0191-6 · 1.28 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We have characterized the homologs of an actin, a troponin I, and a tropomyosin gene in the acoel Symsagittifera roscoffensis. These genes are expressed in muscles and most likely coexpressed in at least a subset of them. In addition, and for the first time for Acoela, we have produced a species-specific muscular marker, an antibody against the tropomyosin protein. We have followed tropomyosin gene and protein expression during postembryonic development and during the posterior regeneration of amputated adults, showing that preexisting muscle fibers contribute to the wound closure. The three genes characterized in this study interact in the striated muscles of vertebrates and invertebrates, where troponin I and tropomyosin are key regulators of the contraction of the sarcomere. S. roscoffensis and all other acoels so far described have only smooth muscles, but the molecular architecture of these is the same as that of striated fibers of other bilaterians. Given the proposed basal position of acoels within the Bilateria, we suggest that sarcomeric muscles arose from a smooth muscle type, which had the molecular repertoire of striated musculature already in place. We discuss this model in a broad comparative perspective.
    Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B Molecular and Developmental Evolution 09/2011; 316(6):427-39. DOI:10.1002/jez.b.21416 · 1.88 Impact Factor