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Review
. 2015 Feb 15;218(Pt 4):592-7.
doi: 10.1242/jeb.111872.

The Ctenophore Lineage Is Older Than Sponges? That Cannot Be Right! Or Can It?

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Review

The Ctenophore Lineage Is Older Than Sponges? That Cannot Be Right! Or Can It?

Kenneth M Halanych. J Exp Biol. .
Free article

Abstract

Recent phylogenetic analyses resulting from collection of whole genome data suggest that ctenophores, or comb jellies, are sister to all other animals. Even before publication, this result prompted discussion among researchers. Here, I counter common criticisms raised about this result and show that assumptions placing sponges as the basal-most extant animal lineage are based on limited evidence and questionable premises. For example, the idea that sponges are simple and the reported similarity of sponge choanocytes to Choanflagellata do not provide useful characters for determining the positions of sponges within the animal tree. Intertwined with discussion of basal metazoan phylogeny is consideration of the evolution of neuronal systems. Recent data show that neural systems of ctenophores are vastly different from those of other animals and use different sets of cellular and genetic mechanisms. Thus, neural systems appear to have at least two independent origins regardless of whether ctenophores or sponges are the earliest branching extant animal lineage.

Keywords: Choanocytes; Choanoflagellata; Comb jelly; Ctenophora; Metazoan origins; Neural evolution; Phylogeny; Porifera.

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