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Keywords:

  • interstitial;
  • meiofauna;
  • paedomorphosis;
  • evolution;
  • systematic position

Abstract

Interstitial marine meiofaunal worms of the genus Diurodrilus have always been considered part of Annelida, either as basal or derived, though generally with reference to Dinophilidae. New evidence shows that Diurodrilus has a unique anatomy, and lacks key annelid features, possibly even segmentation. We assessed the systematic position of Diurodrilus among other protostome animals via light microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy studies of anatomy, focusing on musculature, the nervous system, as well as molecular sequence data. We show that there is little morphological or molecular evidence to support a relationship with Dinophilidae or any other annelids. Diurodrilus has some similarities to Micrognathozoa, though the latter shows complex jaws. On the basis of the configuration of the nervous system and the cuticle we regard Diurodrilus to belong to Spiralia, possibly close to Annelida; however, until further evidence is acquired it should be regarded as incertae sedis in this large animal clade. J. Morphol., 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.