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Interrelationships of the Platyhelminthes - July 1999

Tim Littlewood T.Littlewood at nhm.ac.uk
Wed Mar 25 04:36:00 EST 1998

The Interrelationships of the Platyhelminthes

An International Meeting - The Linnean Society of London 14-16 July 1999
(in association with the Systematics Association & The British Society for

The phylum Platyhelminthes comprises the numerous and diverse flatworms.
They hold a fascination for biologists at a multitude of levels and perhaps
occupy a pivotal position in the evolution of the Metazoa.  Are they the
earliest divergent bilaterians still extant? Do they hold the key to the
evolution of the Metazoa? Do they exhibit a body plan from which more
complex coelomate organisms can be derived? With such fundamental questions
relying on our understanding of the group, it is unfortunate that the
phylogeny of the group is so poorly understood and that the monophyly of
the group is not established.

The group is successful not only in terms of numbers of species but also in
the diversity of ecological niches they occupy and life-history strategies
they pursue. Terrestrial, limnetic and marine free-living flatworms
('turbellarians') are abundant but perhaps not so familiar as the
Neodermata, comprised of obligate parasites such as cestodes, digeneans and

The Neodermata appear to be monophyletic which suggests a suite of
remarkable events took place in their evolutionary past which may help us
to understand the very origins, radiation and nature of parasitism in the
group. However, Neodermata have traditionally been studied by
parasit-ologists, whose concerns have not usually been with phylogeny. The
development of an overall phylogeny of the phylum has been pursued by those
working on free-living flatworms, but it is widely acknowledged that
parasites may well constitute the larger group.

The division between workers on free-living flatworms and parasitologists
has been considerable, if not complete, and has impeded a wider
understanding of the phylum from a systematic and a general comparative
approach.  In an attempt to address this problem a meeting will be held at
the Linnean Society in London from 14-16th July 1999, when it is hoped that
this division will be bridged and a unified approach be developed for the
study of the phylogeny of the platyhelminths.

A list of invited speakers, registration details and contact addresses
appear on:


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