Ctenophora: Illustrated Guide and Taxonomy

Methods Mol Biol. 2024:2757:27-102. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-3642-8_2.


Ctenophores or comb jellies represent the first diverging lineage of extant animals - sister to all other Metazoa. As a result, they occupy a unique place in the biological sciences. Despite their importance, this diverse group of marine predators has remained relatively poorly known, with both the species and higher-level taxonomy of the phylum in need of attention. We present a checklist of the phylum based on a review of the current taxonomic literature and illustrate their diversity with images. The current classification presented remains substantially in conflict with recent phylogenetic results, and many of the taxa are not monophyletic or untested. This chapter summarizes the existing classification focusing on recognized families and genera with 185 currently accepted, extant species listed. We provide illustrative examples of ctenophore diversity covering all but one of the 33 families and 47 of the 48 genera, as well as about 25-30 undescribed species. We also list the 14 recognized ctenophore fossil species and note others that have been controversially attributed to the phylum. Analyses of unique ctenophore adaptations are critical to understanding early animal evolution and adaptive radiation of this clade of basal metazoans.

Keywords: Benthic ctenophores; Beroe; Bolinopsis; Cambrian; Cestum; Classification; Ctenophora; Euplokamis; Evolution; Feeding; Fossils; Mnemiopsis; Ocyropsis; Phylogeny; Platyctenida; Pleurobrachia.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Ctenophora* / classification
  • Ctenophora* / genetics
  • Fossils
  • Phylogeny*