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Fossil range: Early Cambrian - Recent
Scientific classification
Domain: Eukaryota
(unranked): Opisthokonta
Kingdom: Animalia
Subkingdom: Eumetazoa
(unranked): Bilateria
Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
Aguinaldo et al., 1997

The Ecdysozoa (pronounced /ˌɛkdɪsɵˈzoʊ.ə/) are a grouping of protostome animals,[1] including the Arthropoda (insects, chelicerata, crustaceans, and myriapods), Nematoda, and several smaller phyla. They were first defined by Aguinaldo et al. in 1997, based mainly on trees constructed using 18S ribosomal RNA genes.[2] A large study in 2008 by Dunn et al. strongly supported the ecdysozoa as a natural grouping.[3]

The group is also supported by morphological characters, and can be considered as including all animals that shed their exoskeleton (see ecdysis). Groups corresponding roughly to the Ecdysozoa had been proposed previously by Perrier in 1897 and Seurat in 1920 based on morphology alone.

The group has been contested by a significant minority of biologists. Some have argued for groupings based on more traditional taxonomic techniques,[4] whilst others have contested the interpretation of the molecular data.[5][6]


Group characters

A tardigrade (water bear) and a nematode (roundworm)













A phylogenetic tree of the Ecdysozoa hypothesis as suggested by Dunn et al. (2008)

The most notable characteristic shared by ecdysozoans is a three-layered cuticle composed of organic material, which is periodically molted as the animal grows. This process of molting is called ecdysis and gives the group its name. The Ecdysozoans lack locomotory cilia, produce mostly amoeboid sperm, and their embryos do not undergo spiral cleavage as in most other protostomes. Various other features are found in the group, for instance, tardigrades, pycnogonids and roundworms have a triradiate pharynx.

The Ecdysozoa include the following phyla: Arthropoda, Onychophora, Tardigrada, Kinorhyncha, Priapulida, Loricifera, Nematoda and Nematomorpha. A few other groups, such as the gastrotrichs, have been considered possible members but lack the main characters of the group, and are now placed elsewhere. The Arthropoda, Onychophora and Tardigrada have been grouped together as the Panarthropoda because they are distinguished by segmented body plans.[7] Dunn et al. in 2008 suggested that the tardigrada could be grouped along with the nematodes, leaving Onychophora as the sister group to the arthropods.[3]

The non-panarthropod members of Ecdysozoa have been grouped as Cycloneuralia but they are more usually considered paraphyletic.


The grouping proposed by Aguinaldo et al. is not universally accepted. Some zoologists still hold to the original view that Panarthropoda should be classified with Annelida in a group called the Articulata, and that Ecdysozoa are polyphyletic. The highly derived roundworms, with their many highly derived parasitic taxa and a considerable number of autapomorphies continue to pose problems, and are one of the most contested inclusions of grouping.

  1. Cuticular epithelia are widely spread over diverse phyla of invertebrates (including some groups outside Ecdysozoa, such as annelids and molluscs, where it acts as a skin instead of an exoskeleton) and show a considerable degree of variation. They are believed to have evolved independently, at least in some groups. In Nematoda and Panarthropoda, the cuticle is different in both chemical composition and ultrastructure. While the cuticle in arthropods like insects contains chitin, or can be a combination of both chitin and keratin in crustaceans, chitin has never been found in the complex cuticle of Nematoda which is a fibrous and multilayered structure made of collagen and keratin of types unique to the Nematoda.
  2. Molecular evidence for the monophyly of Ecdysozoa is also ambiguous.[5][8]

One of the proposed solutions is to regard Ecdysozoa as a sister-group of Annelida,[9] however the controversy is still far from closure.[10]


  1. ^ Telford MJ, Bourlat SJ, Economou A, Papillon D, Rota-Stabelli O (April 2008). "The evolution of the Ecdysozoa". Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci. 363 (1496): 1529–37. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2243. PMID 18192181. PMC 2614232.  
  2. ^ Aguinaldo, A. M. A.; J. M. Turbeville, L. S. Linford, M. C. Rivera, J. R. Garey, R. A. Raff, & J. A. Lake (1997). "Evidence for a clade of nematodes, arthropods and other moulting animals". Nature 387: 489–493. doi:10.1038/387489a0.  
  3. ^ a b Dunn et al. (2008). "Broad phylogenomic sampling improves resolution of the animal tree of life". Nature 452: 745–749. doi:10.1038/nature06614.  
  4. ^ Nielsen, Claus (1995). Animal Evolution: Interrelationships of the Living Phyla. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198506829.  
  5. ^ a b Blair, J. E.; Kazuho Ikeo, Takashi Gojobori and S. Blair Hedges (2002). "The evolutionary position of nematodes". BMC Evolutionary Biology 2: 7. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-2-7.  
  6. ^ Wägele, J. W.; T. Erikson, P. Lockhart, & B. Misof (1999). "The Ecdysozoa: Artifact or monophylum?". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 37: 211–223.  
  7. ^ Paleos Invertebrates: Panarthropoda - URL retrieved February 17, 2007
  8. ^ Wägele, J. W.; B. Misof (2001). "On quality of evidence in phylogeny reconstruction: a reply to Zrzavý's defence of the 'Ecdysozoa' hypothesis". J. Zool. Syst. Evol. Research 39 (3): 165–176. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0469.2001.00177.x.  
  9. ^ Nielsen, C. (2003) Proposing a solution to the Articulata–Ecdysozoa controversy. Zoologica Scripta 32:5, 475-482
  10. ^ Jenner, Ronald A. Unleashing the force of cladistics? Metazoan phylogenetics and hypothesis testing. Integrative and Comparative Biology, Feb 2003

External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Cladi: Cycloneuralia - Panarthropoda

Overview of extant groups (8): Arthropoda - Kinorhyncha - Loricifera - Nematoda - Nematomorpha - Onychophora - Priapulida - Tardigrada




  • Garey, J.R. 2001: Ecdysozoa: the relationship between Cycloneuralia and Panarthropoda. Zoologischer Anzeiger, 240: 321-330.
  • Petrov, N.B.; Vladychenskaya, N.S. 2005: Phylogeny of protostome moulting animals (Ecdysozoa) inferred from 18 and 28S rRNA gene sequences. Molecular biology (Moscow), 39(4): 590-601.
  • Podsiadlowski, L.; Braband, A.; Mayer, G. 2008: The complete mitochondrial genome of the onychophoran Epiperipatus biolleyi reveals a unique transfer RNA set and provides further support for the Ecdysozoa hypothesis. Molecular biology and evolution, 25(1): 42-51. [1]
  • Sørensen, M.V.; Hebsgaard, M.B.; Heiner, I.; Glenner, H.; Willerslev, E.; Kristensen, R.M. 2008: New data from an enigmatic phylum: evidence from molecular sequence data supports a sister-group relationship between Loricifera and Nematomorpha. Journal of zoological systematics and evolutionary research, 46: 231-239.

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Häutungstiere
English: Molting animals
Français: Ecdysozoaires
한국어: 탈피동물
Magyar: Vedlő állatok
日本語: 脱皮動物 (だっぴどうぶつ)
Português: Ecdisozoários
中文: 蛻皮動物

Simple English

Fossil range: Early Cambrian - Recent
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Subkingdom: Eumetazoa
(unranked) Bilateria
Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
Aguinaldo et al., 1997

The Ecdysozoa (also called cycloneuralia) are a grouping of protostome animals, including the Arthropoda (including insects and crustaceans), Nematoda, and several smaller phyla.


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