• neuroanatomy;
  • tardigrade;
  • phylogeny


The position of Tardigrada in the animal tree of life is a subject that has received much attention, but still remains controversial. Whereas some think tardigrades should be categorized as cycloneuralians, most authors argue in favor of a phylogenetic position within Panarthropoda as a sister group to Arthropoda or Arthropoda + Onychophora. Thus far, neither molecular nor morphological investigations have provided conclusive results as to the tardigrade sister group relationships. In this article, we present a detailed description of the nervous system of the eutardigrade Halobiotus crispae, using immunostainings, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and computer-aided three-dimensional reconstructions supported by transmission electron microscopy. We report details regarding the structure of the brain as well as the ganglia of the ventral nerve cord. In contrast to the newest investigation, we find transverse commissures in the ventral ganglia, and our data suggest that the brain is partitioned into at least three lobes. Additionally, we can confirm the existence of a subpharyngeal ganglion previously called subesophagal ganglion. According to our results, the original suggestion of a brain comprised of at least three parts cannot be rejected, and the data presented supports a sister group relationship of Tardigrada to 1) Arthropoda or 2) Onychophora or 3) Arthropoda + Onychophora. J. Morphol. 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.