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Phylogenetic position of Nerillidae and Aberranta (Polychaeta, Annelida), analysed by direct optimization of combined molecular and morphological data

Journal article
Authors K. Worsaae
Arne Nygren
G. W. Rouse
G. Giribet
Jenny Persson
Per Sundberg
Fredrik Pleijel
Published in Zoologica Scripta
Volume 34
Issue 3
Pages 313-328
ISSN 0300-3256
Publication year 2005
Published at Department of Zoology
Pages 313-328
Language en
Keywords multiple-sequence alignment, phyllodocidae polychaeta, trochonerilla-mobilis, autolytinae syllidae, nervous-system, evolution, genus, ultrastructure, classification, reconstruction
Subject categories Biological Sciences


The phylogenetic position of the most speciose meiofaunal polychaete family, Nerillidae, has remained contentious. Recent hypotheses have generally focused on the fact that Nerillidae shares with Aciculata (a major polychaete subgroup) features such as compound chaetae, ventral buccal organ and short ventrolateral palps. Here we present the first phylogenetic analysis of Aciculata, together with Nerillidae, combining morphological and molecular data. We also include Aberrantidae, previously referred to or placed near to spiomorph polychaetes, but recently referred to Aciculata, possibly close to Nerillidae. The data sets of 24 terminals contain 53 morphological characters and nearly complete sequences of 18S rRNA. The sequences were analysed simultaneously with the morphological data by direct optimization in the program POY with a variety of parameter settings (costs of gaps: transversions: transitions). The various settings resulted in markedly different phylogenetic hypotheses, but on the basis of congruence (ILD) the results of two parameter settings were chosen. In all analyses, the three included nerillid species constituted a monophyletic group. Only two analyses provided fully resolved cladograms. The morphological analysis gave poor resolution and the position of the nerillids was equivocal. The two molecular-based cladograms (minimizing ILD) were also poorly resolved, but one provided a position for nerillids next to Eunice pennata and Nothria conchilega, from the subgroup Eunicida within Aciculata. The two cladograms of the combined analyses (minimizing ILD) were fully resolved and placed nerillids in a terminal position next to Aberranta sp., within a clade of eunicidan species. The study showed that the analytical conditions for the homology assignment of 18S rRNA strongly influenced the phylogenetic results. The various previous proposals on the phylogenetic position of the Nerillidae are reviewed, some of which are in accordance with the results of the present study.

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