Author(s): Eitel M, Osigus HJ, DeSalle R, Schierwater B
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Abstract The enigmatic animal phylum Placozoa holds a key position in the metazoan Tree of Life. A simple bauplan makes it appear to be the most basal metazoan known and genetic evidence also points to a position close to the last common metazoan ancestor. Trichoplax adhaerens is the only formally described species in the phylum to date, making the Placozoa the only monotypic phylum in the animal kingdom. However, recent molecular genetic as well as morphological studies have identified a high level of diversity, and hence a potential high level of taxonomic diversity, within this phylum. Different taxa, possibly at different taxonomic levels, are awaiting description. In this review we firstly summarize knowledge on the morphology, phylogenetic position and ecology of the Placozoa. Secondly, we give an overview of placozoan morphological and genetic diversity and finally present an updated distribution of placozoan populations. We conclude that there is great potential and need to erect new taxa and to establish a firm system for this taxonomic tabula rasa.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Biological Systems: Open Access