Phylogenetic relationships within the class Clitellata were examined using partial nucleotide sequences of the nuclear 18S ribosomal RNA gene. In the analysis, the already determined sequences for the individual species representing the class members Hirudinea, Acanthobdellida, Branchiobdellida, and Oligochaeta were included. Furthermore, newly determined sequences of the thirteen representatives of the family Lumbriculidae, including 12 Baikalian endemic species, were analyzed. The hypothesis on the close relatedness of these four groups of Clitellata was supported. Leeches, branchiobdellids, and lumbriculids form three independent parallel branches of evolution. These results were consistent with the hypothesis on the role of the family Lumbriculidae as a connecting link, or the transition form between the parasitic and free-living groups of Clitellata. At the same time, these data refute the suggestion that Lumbriculidae could be the ancestral lineage of other Oligochaeta. Moreover, polymorphic group of Baikalian lumbriculids clustered independently from the other representatives of the family, pointing to the uniqueness of the Baikalian fauna of oligochaetes, which was formed within relatively closed system of this ancient lake.
Russian Journal of Genetics – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 17, 2006
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