Phylogenomics revives traditional views on deep animal relationships

Curr Biol. 2009 Apr 28;19(8):706-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.02.052. Epub 2009 Apr 2.


The origin of many of the defining features of animal body plans, such as symmetry, nervous system, and the mesoderm, remains shrouded in mystery because of major uncertainty regarding the emergence order of the early branching taxa: the sponge groups, ctenophores, placozoans, cnidarians, and bilaterians. The "phylogenomic" approach [1] has recently provided a robust picture for intrabilaterian relationships [2, 3] but not yet for more early branching metazoan clades. We have assembled a comprehensive 128 gene data set including newly generated sequence data from ctenophores, cnidarians, and all four main sponge groups. The resulting phylogeny yields two significant conclusions reviving old views that have been challenged in the molecular era: (1) that the sponges (Porifera) are monophyletic and not paraphyletic as repeatedly proposed [4-9], thus undermining the idea that ancestral metazoans had a sponge-like body plan; (2) that the most likely position for the ctenophores is together with the cnidarians in a "coelenterate" clade. The Porifera and the Placozoa branch basally with respect to a moderately supported "eumetazoan" clade containing the three taxa with nervous system and muscle cells (Cnidaria, Ctenophora, and Bilateria). This new phylogeny provides a stimulating framework for exploring the important changes that shaped the body plans of the early diverging phyla.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Patterning*
  • Genomics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / classification
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Porifera / classification
  • Porifera / genetics


  • Nuclear Proteins