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Resolving the relationships between Metazoa and other eukaryotic groups as well as between metazoan phyla is central to the understanding of the origin and evolution of animals. The current view is based on limited data sets, either a single gene with many species (e.g., ribosomal RNA) or many genes but with only a few species. Because a reliable phylogenetic inference simultaneously requires numerous genes and numerous species, we assembled a very large data set containing 129 orthologous proteins ( approximately 30,000 aligned amino acid positions) for 36 eukaryotic species. Included in the alignments are data from the choanoflagellate Monosiga ovata, obtained through the sequencing of about 1,000 cDNAs. We provide conclusive support for choanoflagellates as the closest relative of animals and for fungi as the second closest. The monophyly of Plantae and chromalveolates was recovered but without strong statistical support. Within animals, in contrast to the monophyly of Coelomata observed in several recent large-scale analyses, we recovered a paraphyletic Coelamata, with nematodes and platyhelminths nested within. To include a diverse sample of organisms, data from EST projects were used for several species, resulting in a large amount of missing data in our alignment (about 25%). By using different approaches, we verify that the inferred phylogeny is not sensitive to these missing data. Therefore, this large data set provides a reliable phylogenetic framework for studying eukaryotic and animal evolution and will be easily extendable when large amounts of sequence information become available from a broader taxonomic range.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Biol Evol

Publication Date





1740 - 1752


Animals, Data Interpretation, Statistical, Eukaryotic Cells, Expressed Sequence Tags, Fungal Proteins, Fungi, Genomics, Likelihood Functions, Molecular Sequence Data, Phylogeny, Proteins, Ribosomal Proteins, Sequence Alignment