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Keywords:

  • Platyhelminthes;
  • Acoelomorpha;
  • Rhabditophora;
  • fluorescence;
  • muscle;
  • phalloidin

Abstract

In an effort to understand the phylogeny of the Platyhelminthes, the patterns of body-wall musculature of flatworms were studied using fluorescence microscopy and Alexa-488-labeled phalloidin. Species of the Catenulida have a simple orthogonal gridwork of longitudinal and circular muscles. Members of the Rhabditophora have the same gridwork of musculature, but also have diagonal muscles over their entire body. Although a few species of Acoelomorpha possessed a simple orthogonal grid of musculature, most species typically have distinctly different patterns of dorsal and ventral body-wall musculature that include sets of longitudinal, circular, U-shaped, and several kinds of diagonal muscles. Several distinct patterns of musculature were identified, including 8 patterns in 11 families of acoels. These patterns have proven to be useful in clarifying the phylogeny of the Acoelomorpha, particularly with regard to the higher acoels. Patterns of musculature as well as other morphological characters are used here for revisions of acoel systematics, including the return of Eumecynostomum sanguineum (Mecynostomidae) to the genus Aphanostoma (Convolutidae), the revision of the family Childiidae, and the formation of a new family, Actinoposthiidae. J. Morphol. 249:171–194, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.