An introduction to Loricifera, Cycliophora, and Micrognathozoa

TitleAn introduction to Loricifera, Cycliophora, and Micrognathozoa
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
Refereed DesignationRefereed
AuthorsKristensen, R. M.
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Volume42
Issue3
Pagination641-651
ISSN1540-7063
Abstract

Loriciferans, cycliophorans and micrognathozoans are amongst the latest groups of animals to be discovered. Other than all being microscopic, they have very different body plans and are not closely related. Loriciferans were originally assigned to the Aschelminthes. However, both new molecular and ultrastructural researches have shown that Aschelminthes consist of two unrelated groups, Cycloneuralia and Gnathifera. Cycloneuralia may be included in the Ecdysozoa, including all molting invertebrates, and Gnathifera are more closely related to Platyhelminthes. The phylum Loricifera shares many apomorphic characters (e.g., scalids on the introvert) with both Priapulida and Kinorhyncha, and can be included in the taxon Scalidophora, a subgroup of Cycloneuralia. Cycliophora was originally allied to the Entoprocta and Ectoprocta (Bryozoa) based on ultrastructual research. Subsequent molecular data show they may be related to Rotifera and Acanthocephala, within the taxon Gnathifera. The phylogenetic position of Cycliophora is therefore not settled, and more ultrastructural and molecular data are needed. Micrognathozoa is the most recent major group of animals to be described. They show strong affinities with both Rotifera and Gnathostomulida (within the taxon Gnathifera), especially in the fine structure of the pharyngeal apparatus, where the jaw elements have cuticular rods with osmiophilic cores. Furthermore the micrognathozoans have two rows of multiciliated cells that form a locomotory organ, similar to that seen in some gastrotrichs and interstitial annelids. This character is never seen in Rotifera or in the monociliated Gnathostomulida. Rotifera and Acanthocephala always have a syncytial epidermis (Syndermata). Micrognathozoa lack this characteristic feature. Therefore, they are postulated to be placed basally in the Gnathifera, either as a sister-group to Gnathostomulida or as a sister-group to Rotifera + Acanthocephala.