We demonstrate that by formulating guidelines for evolutionary morphology the transparency, reproducibility, and intersubject testability of evolutionary hypotheses based on morphological data can be enhanced. The five main steps in our concept of evolutionary morphology are (i) taxon sampling, (ii) structural analysis, (iii) character conceptualization, (iv) phylogenetic analysis, and (v) evolutionary interpretation. We illustrate this concept on the example of the morphology of the circulatory organs in peracarid Malacostraca. The analysis is based on recently published accounts in which detailed structural analyses were carried out, and on the older literature. Detailed conceptualizations of 22 characters of the circulatory system are given for 28 terminals. In a further step these characters are included in a recently revised matrix, resulting in 110 characters. The resulting parsimony analysis yielded a single most parsimonious tree with a length of 309 steps. The most significant results are that Peracarida is monophyletic, Amphipoda is the sister taxon to the Mancoida sensu stricto, the relict cave-dwelling taxa Thermosbaenacea, Spelaeogriphacea, and Mictocarididae form a monophylum and Tanaidacea is the sister group to a monophylum comprising Cumacea and Isopoda. The evolutionary analysis shows that the ground pattern features of the circulatory organs in Peracarida are a tubular heart extending through the whole thorax, a posterior aorta with lateral arteries, and a ventral vessel system. Important features within the Peracarida are the backward shift of the anterior border of the heart, the reduction of the ventral vessel system, and two patterns of cardiac arteries, one common to the amphipod and tanaidacean terminals, and one to the cumacean and isopod terminals.
© The Willi Hennig Society 2009.