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Topology-dependent asymmetry in systematic errors affects phylogenetic placement of Ctenophora and Xenacoelomorpha
Kapli, P.; Telford, M.J. (2020). Topology-dependent asymmetry in systematic errors affects phylogenetic placement of Ctenophora and Xenacoelomorpha. Science Advances 6(50): eabc5162. https://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abc5162
In: Science Advances. AAAS: New York. ISSN 2375-2548, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Kapli, P.
  • Telford, M.J.

Abstract
    The evolutionary relationships of two animal phyla, Ctenophora and Xenacoelomorpha, have proved highly contentious. Ctenophora have been proposed as the most distant relatives of all other animals (Ctenophora-first rather than the traditional Porifera-first). Xenacoelomorpha may be primitively simple relatives of all other bilaterally symmetrical animals (Nephrozoa) or simplified relatives of echinoderms and hemichordates (Xenambulacraria). In both cases, one of the alternative topologies must be a result of errors in tree reconstruction. Here, using empirical data and simulations, we show that the Ctenophora-first and Nephrozoa topologies (but not Porifera-first and Ambulacraria topologies) are strongly supported by analyses affected by systematic errors. Accommodating this finding suggests that empirical studies supporting Ctenophora-first and Nephrozoa trees are likely to be explained by systematic error. This would imply that the alternative Porifera-first and Xenambulacraria topologies, which are supported by analyses designed to minimize systematic error, are the most credible current alternatives.

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