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Phylogenetic relationships between solitary and colonial ascidians, as inferred from the sequence of the central region of their respective 18S rDNAs


, : Phylogenetic relationships between solitary and colonial ascidians, as inferred from the sequence of the central region of their respective 18S rDNAs. Biological Bulletin (Woods Hole) 183(3): 448-455

Ascidians (tunicates) are primitive chordates. In spite of their elevated phylogenetic position in the animal kingdom, ascidians have evolved a varied reproductive repertoire; some of them live as individuals (solitary ascidians), while others form colonies (colonial ascidians). Colonial ascidians propagate asexually by budding and strobilation, and they have an extensive capacity for regeneration. However, the orthodox taxonomic classification of ascidians categorizes them into two major groups (the orders Enterogona and Pleurogona), irrespective of their solitary or colonial life style. To examine whether the orthodox classification of ascidians is substantiated by molecular phylogeny, the complete nucleotide sequence of a region of about 1000 base pairs in the central part of their respective 18S rDNAs was determined, and the sequences were compared among five solitary and three colonial ascidians. The phylogenetic tree deduced from these results suggests that the three species of Enterogona and the five species of Pleurogona examined form discrete and separate groups irrespective of their potential to form colonies. Therefore, a solitary or colonial life style is likely to have developed independently after the divergence of the two major groups of ascidians.

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DOI: 10.2307/1542021


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