The origins and evolution of the Ecdysozoa
Ecdysozoa is a clade composed of eight phyla, three of which — arthropods, tardigrades, and onychophorans — share segmentation and have appendages, and the remaining five — nematodes, nematomorphs, priapulids, kinorhynchs, and loriciferans — are worms with an anterior proboscis or introvert. Ecdysozoa contains the vast majority of animal species and there is a great diversity of body plans among both living and fossil members. The monophyly of the clade has been called into question by some workers based on analyses of whole genome datasets and we review the evidence that now conclusively supports the unique origin of these phyla. Relationships within Ecdysozoa are also controversial and we discuss the molecular and morphological evidence for several monophyletic groups within this superphylum.
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