Project Info

Molecular phylogeny and gene repertoire evolution of 'strange worms': Nemathelminthes, Gnathifera and Xenoturbella

Nemathelminthes and Gnathifera, historically joined as Aschelminthes, comprise fundamentally diverse worm-like organisms which have been grouped into a number of distinct animal phyla. The phylogenetic affiliations of these phyla are controversial, being involved in the 'Coelomata' and 'Ecdysozoa' debates. The worm-like Xenoturbella is another enigmatic taxon which may represent a novel deuterostome lineage. Within the framework of the priority project "Deep Metazoan Phylogeny", we propose to initially generate 4000 EST reads each for one nematomorph species, one acanthocephalan and for Xenoturbella. These data will be used to reconstruct 'deep' branches of the metazoan tree and to select genes which can be employed to resolve controversial relationships within the phyla. In a bioinformatical analysis of the EST data, the basic features of the gene coding regions and the gene repertoire of the three taxa will be studied in comparison with other genomic model organisms. This promises to improve our view of the basic metazoan gene content and the evolutionary transition from invertebrate to vertebrate genomes. Additionally, we will focus on the evolution of invertebrate globin genes with regard to recently discovered, novel vertebrate globins.


Prof. Dr. Thomas Hankeln, Universitaet Mainz, Mainz