Date of this Version
Phylogenetic systematic analysis of 24 taxa representing the rhabdocoel platyhelminths, based on a suite of 89 morphological characters, produced two equally parsimonious trees, 181 steps long, with a consistency index (CI) of 0.69 and a rescaled consistency index (RCI) of 0.56, differing only with respect to that portion of the tree containing Umagillidae, Acholadidae, Graffillinae, Pseudograffillinae, Pterastericolidae and Hypoblepharinidae. Our results accommodate all previously proposed sister taxa to the Neodermata in a single clade in which ((Dalyelliidae + Temnocephalida) Typhloplanidae) is the sister group of ((Fecampiidae + Urastoma) (Udonella ((Aspidogastrea + Digenea) (Monogenea (Gyrocotylidea (Amphilinidea + Eucestoda)))))). Bootstrap and jackknife analyses indicate that the groupings of ((Dalyelliidae + Temnocephalida) Typhloplanidae) and of ((Fecampiidae + Urastoma) (Udonella ((Aspidogastrea + Digenea) (Monogenea (Gyrocotylidea (Amphilinidea + Eucestoda)))))) are highly robust, with the latter clade having a CI of 90% and RCI of 82%. Disagreements among previous analyses of these taxa have been due to the influence of missing data for critical characters in key taxa and differences in the taxa analysed, rather than any inherent weakness in the morphological data. Non-phylogenetic systematic approaches to homology assessment and misconceptions regarding phylogenetic systematic methodology are discussed. Recent analyses combining sequence data with a subset of approximately 60% of the morphological characters should be re-assessed using the entire morphological database. Even if Udonella is a monogenean, it is most parsimonious to suggest that the common ancestor of the Neodermata had a vertebrate-arthropod two-host life cycle.