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World list of turbellarian worms:
Acoelomorpha, Catenulida, Rhabditophora
(formerly class Turbellaria of the phylum Platyhelminthes)

(part of WoRMS - the World Register of Marine Species)

Quick stats

3,432 accepted species, of which 100% checked
6,369 species names including synonyms

Taxonomic context

Xenacoelomorpha Philippe, Brinkmann, Copley, Moroz, Nakano, Poustka, Wallberg, Peterson & Telford, 2011
Xenoturbellida Bourlat, Juliusdottir, Lowe, Freeman, Aronowicz et al., 2006
Acoelomorpha Ehlers, 1985
Nemertodermatida Karling, 1940
Acoela Uljanin, 1870
Ambulacraria (Echinodermata / Hemichordata)
Chordata (Vertebrata / Urochordata / Cephalochordata)
Platyhelminthes Minot, 1876
Catenulida Graff, 1905
Rhabditophora Ehlers, 1985
Macrostomorpha Doe, 1986
Trepaxonemata Ehlers, 1984
Polycladida Lang, 1881 [viz. Faubel, 1983/1984]
Neoophora Westblad, 1948
"Lecithoepitheliata" Reisinger, 1924
Proseriata Meixner, 1938
Eulecithophora de Beauchamp, 1961
Rhabdocoela Meixner, 1925
Kalyptorhynchia Graff, 1905
Dalytyphloplanoida Willems, Wallberg, Jondelius, Littlewood, Backeljau, Schockaert, Artois, 2006
Neodalyelliida Willems et al., 2006
Neotyphloplanida Willems et al., 2006
Limnotyphloplanida Van Steenkiste et al., 2013
Temnocephalida Blanchard, 1849
Thalassotyphloplanida Willems et al., 2006
Adiaphanida Noren & Jondelius, 2002
Prolecithophora Karling, 1940
Fecampiida Rohde, Luton & Johnson, 1994
Urastomidae, Fecampiidae, Genostomatidae, Notenteridae
Tricladida Lang, 1884
Maricola Hallez, 1892
Cavernicola Sluys, 1990
Continenticola Carranza, Littlewood, Clough, Ruiz-Trillo, Baguna, & Riutort, 1998
Neodermata Ehlers, 1985

About turbellarians

Traditional, pre-cladistic systems placed the flatworms in a single phylum, the Platyhelminthes, subdivided into the classes Turbellaria, Monogenea, Trematoda, and Cestoda (see Hyman, 1951). Turbellarians are the largely free-living flatworms---small soft-bodied worms with a ciliated epidermis by which they swim and creep over substrates and with a sac-like gut whose only opening is the mouth. In contrast, the Monogenea, Trematoda, and Cestoda have a specialized, non-ciliated, syncytial epidermis and are obligate parasites, mostly in or on the bodies of vertebrates. As a taxonomic group, the Turbellaria is, in particular, considered an invalid class because it is not monophyletic. (It is both paraphyletic---that is, having descendants, namely the parasitic classes, that are not classified within it [Ehlers, 1985] and polyphyletic---that is, having arisen from more than one ancestor, one for the acoels and another for catenulidans and rhabditophorans [Baguñà and Riutort, 2004; Phillipé et al., 2011]). The term "turbellarian" can still be applied to those worms that were formerly classified in the Turbellaria, but the term "Turbellaria" (specifically, the capitalized taxon name) would have to be written in quotation marks to indicate its paraphyletic status. Not all turbellarians are free-living, so an alternative name sometimes applied to turbellarians, "free-living Platyhelminthes," is not quite appropriate.

In recognition of recent proposals based on molecular sequences (particularly of 18s rDNA, some Hox genes, and, most recently, fuller genomic data) the system displayed here treats the Acoelomorpha as separate from the phylum Platyhelminthes. The position and status of Acoelomorpha have been volatile in molecular systematics, some claiming that it itself is paraphyletic, many claiming that it (possibly as separate taxa Acoela and Nemertodermatida) belongs near the base of the animal tree of life, as the most basal bilaterians---that is, the most primitive of any animal phylum outside of the sponges and cnidarians. Two genomic studies (Bourlat et al., 2006; Phillipé et al., 2011), placed the Acoelomorpha within the Deuterostomia, in a phylum Xenacoelomorpha that includes also the enigmatic sack-like animal Xenoturbella); under this concept, Xenacoelomorpha is placed as sister group to the Ambulacraria (Echinodermata + Hemichordata). Another genomic analysis places the Xenacoelomorpha outside both Protostomia and Deuterostomia, again as the most basal of any bilaterian groups (Cannon et al., 2016). In any case the Platyhelminthes, as defined in these molecular systems, would be only distantly related to the Acoelomorpha.

This taxonomic database covers all turbellarian flatworms, freshwater as well as marine ones, and including parasitic turbellarians. The position of the major parasitic taxa of the Platyhelminthes (the other classes in the traditional system), encompassed now in the taxon Neodermata, is shown as proposed by cladistic systems based on morphological characters (see Baguñà and Riutort, 2004, for summary of other proposed positions of the Neodermata). This means that it is within the turbellarian taxon Eulecithophora, sister group to (or at least within an uncertain polytomy with) the Rhabdocoela and Adiaphanida.

References cited

About the taxonomic listing

Louise Bush sorting turbellarians
Steve Schilling collecting geographic data

Data in this listing were initially compiled by Louise Bush. Dr. Bush's last update to the database was in 1991, the year of her death. Since 1991, the database has been updated by S. Tyler, Steve Schilling, Matt Hooge, and Tom Artois, with help from specialists on various groups of turbellarian platyhelminths, including Masaharu Kawakatsu, Ulrich Ehlers, Marco Curini-Galletti, Oleg Timoshkin, Lukas Schärer, Wim Willems, Johannes Achatz, Anatoly Petrov, Julian P. S. Smith III, Eduard Solà, Francisco Brusa, Cristina Damborenea, Miquel Vila Farre.

Images are mostly extracted from scientific papers describing species. Copyrights for images remain with the original print publishers. Copies of many of the images of Rhabdocoela and Proseriata were kindly provided by Tom Artois, Ernest Schockaert, Matt Hooge, and Rick Hochberg. Images of Acoela, Prolecithophora, and other Rhabdocoela were provided by Matt Hooge.

Many of the notes on these turbellarian taxa and references dealing with them are from index cards that Louise Bush maintained, displayed here either as images of those cards themselves or, in the case of Acoelomorpha species, transcribed into text entries. Steve Schilling scanned the Bush's cards and transcribed notes from many of them for this database.

Steve Schilling entered almost all of the geographic-distribution data. He combed the literature for any mention of collections of turbellarians and scrupulously compared geographic names mentioned with names appearing in gazeteers. Some of the early phases of this work on geographic distributions of species was supported by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0118804.

Please cite the usage of the World list of turbellarian worms if you utilize taxonomic information in your publications. This supports the academic contributions of the author and recognizes the contribution of this database to the greater community, which are important facets to the ongoing growth and development of taxonomic knowledge.

If data are extracted from this website for secondary analysis resulting in a publication, the website should be cited as follows:

Tyler, S., Artois, T.; Schilling, S.; Hooge, M.; Bush, L.F. (eds) (2006-2018). World List of turbellarian worms: Acoelomorpha, Catenulida, Rhabditophora. Accessed at on 2018-01-22

If any data constitutes a substantial proportion of the records used in secondary analyses (i.e. more than 25% of the data are derived from this source, or the data are essential to arrive at the conclusion of the analysis), the authors/managers of the database should be contacted. It may be useful to contact us directly in case there are additional data that may strengthen the analysis or there are features of the data that are important to consider but may not have been apparent from the metadata


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