Although the discovery and description of Trichoplax adhaerens in 1883 (in saltwater tanks in Austria) sparked controversy among zoologists about what its significance might be with respect to inferring the characteristics of early metazoans, interest faded away as the (incorrect) idea took hold that these enigmatic organisms were simply abnormal larvae of hydrozoan cnidarians. Although strong evidence against this view was published in 1912 and 1914, there was no more discussion of Trichoplax in the zoological literature--nor citation of the key critiques of 1912 and 1914-- for more than half a century (although the misconception that it was a cnidarian was repeated in textbooks). Beginning in the 1960s, several researchers re-focused attention on Trichoplax, demonstrating that it is an adult form of a new phylum dubbed, in 1971, Placozoa. Recent data all indicate that the Placozoa represent one of the earliest branching lineages in the metazoan tree, but the exact placement of this branch remains uncertain. Trichoplax adhaerens is the only described species in the phylum Placozoa.
(Syed and Schierwater 2002; Schierwater et al. 2009; Ball and Miller 2010 and references therein)
- Ball, E.E. and D.J. Miller. 2010. Putting placozoans on the (phylogeographic) map. Molecular Ecology 19: 2181-2183.
- Schierwater, B., M. Eitel, W. Jakob, H.-J. Osigus, H. Hadrys, S.L. Dellaporta, et al. 2009. Concatenated Analysis Sheds Light on Early Metazoan Evolution and Fuels a Modern ‘‘Urmetazoon’’ Hypothesis. PLoS Biol 7(1): e1000020. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000020
- Syed, T. and B. Schierwater. 2002. Trichoplax adhaerens: discovered as a missing like, forgotten as a hydrozoan, re-discovered as a key to metazoan evolution. Vie Milieu 52: 177-187.
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