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      Neural architecture of Galathowenia oculata Zach, 1923 (Oweniidae, Annelida)

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          Oweniids are marine tubeworms burrowing in muddy sediments that in current phylogenies form an early branching lineage within Annelida. Little is known about their general morphology, in particular the nervous system. Here we provide an immunocytochemical investigation of the nervous system of Galathowenia oculata in order to discuss putative ancestral neuronal features in Oweniidae.


          Adult Galathowenia oculata have neither a supraesophageal ganglion nor ganglia associated with the ventral nerve cord. Instead, there is a dorsal brain commissure in the head collar that is engulfed by a cellular cortex. Accordingly, we herein term this neural structure “medullary brain commissure”. The anterior margin of the head collar exhibits numerous neurites that emerge from the brain commissure. The dorsolateral folds are innervated by the ventrolateral neurite bundles extending from the circumesophageal connectives. In the anterior uniramous and biramous segments immunoreactive somata are distributed evenly along the ventral nerve cord and arranged metamerically in the posterior-most short segments. One dorsal and two pairs of lateral neurite bundles extend longitudinally along the body. Numerous serially arranged circular neurite bundles were labeled in anteriormost long segments. Metameric arrangement of the circular neurite bundles stained against FMRFamide and acetylated α-tubulin is revealed in posterior short segments. For the first time immunoreactive somata arranged in clusters are reported within the pygidium in oweniids.


          Due to the lack of head appendages and a sedentary mode of life, G. oculata exhibits a single dorsal commissure ( versus a brain with four commissures in most annelids). A “medullary brain commissure” is known so far only in Oweniidae and Echiura. Lack of ganglia and metamery in the ventral nerve cord of the anteriormost segments might be the result of the elongation of these segments. In the short posterior segments the metamery of immunoreactive somata and circular neurite bundles is conserved. We hypothesize that the unpaired ventral nerve cord in adult oweniids might be a result of an initially paired ventral nerve cord that fuses during development, a condition not uncommon within Annelida.

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          Phylogenomic analyses unravel annelid evolution.

          Annelida, the ringed worms, is a highly diverse animal phylum that includes more than 15,000 described species and constitutes the dominant benthic macrofauna from the intertidal zone down to the deep sea. A robust annelid phylogeny would shape our understanding of animal body-plan evolution and shed light on the bilaterian ground pattern. Traditionally, Annelida has been split into two major groups: Clitellata (earthworms and leeches) and polychaetes (bristle worms), but recent evidence suggests that other taxa that were once considered to be separate phyla (Sipuncula, Echiura and Siboglinidae (also known as Pogonophora)) should be included in Annelida. However, the deep-level evolutionary relationships of Annelida are still poorly understood, and a robust reconstruction of annelid evolutionary history is needed. Here we show that phylogenomic analyses of 34 annelid taxa, using 47,953 amino acid positions, recovered a well-supported phylogeny with strong support for major splits. Our results recover chaetopterids, myzostomids and sipunculids in the basal part of the tree, although the position of Myzostomida remains uncertain owing to its long branch. The remaining taxa are split into two clades: Errantia (which includes the model annelid Platynereis), and Sedentaria (which includes Clitellata). Ancestral character trait reconstructions indicate that these clades show adaptation to either an errant or a sedentary lifestyle, with alteration of accompanying morphological traits such as peristaltic movement, parapodia and sensory perception. Finally, life history characters in Annelida seem to be phylogenetically informative.
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            Cladistics and polychaetes

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              Illuminating the base of the annelid tree using transcriptomics.

              Annelida is one of three animal groups possessing segmentation and is central in considerations about the evolution of different character traits. It has even been proposed that the bilaterian ancestor resembled an annelid. However, a robust phylogeny of Annelida, especially with respect to the basal relationships, has been lacking. Our study based on transcriptomic data comprising 68,750-170,497 amino acid sites from 305 to 622 proteins resolves annelid relationships, including Chaetopteridae, Amphinomidae, Sipuncula, Oweniidae, and Magelonidae in the basal part of the tree. Myzostomida, which have been indicated to belong to the basal radiation as well, are now found deeply nested within Annelida as sister group to Errantia in most analyses. On the basis of our reconstruction of a robust annelid phylogeny, we show that the basal branching taxa include a huge variety of life styles such as tube dwelling and deposit feeding, endobenthic and burrowing, tubicolous and filter feeding, and errant and carnivorous forms. Ancestral character state reconstruction suggests that the ancestral annelid possessed a pair of either sensory or grooved palps, bicellular eyes, biramous parapodia bearing simple chaeta, and lacked nuchal organs. Because the oldest fossil of Annelida is reported for Sipuncula (520 Ma), we infer that the early diversification of annelids took place at least in the Lower Cambrian. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:

                Author and article information

                Front Zool
                Front. Zool
                Frontiers in Zoology
                BioMed Central (London )
                8 February 2016
                8 February 2016
                : 13
                [ ]Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskie Gory 1-12, 119234 Moscow, Russia
                [ ]Department of Integrative Zoology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria
                © Rimskaya-Korsakova et al. 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: Russian Scientific Foundation
                Award ID: 14-14-00262
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                Funded by: Russian Foundation of Basic Research
                Award ID: 12-04-31427 mol_a
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                Funded by: Russian Scientific Fund
                Award ID: 14-50-00029
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                Funded by: FundRef, Austrian Science Fund (AT);
                Award ID: M-1523-B19
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