Evidence for a clade composed of molluscs with serially repeated structures: Monoplacophorans are related to chitons
Monoplacophorans are among the rarest members of the phylum Mollusca. Previously only known from fossils since the Cambrian, the first living monoplacophoran was discovered during the famous second Galathea deep-sea expedition. The anatomy of these molluscs shocked the zoological community for presenting serially repeated gills, nephridia, and eight sets of dorsoventral pedal retractor muscles. Seriality of organs in supposedly independent molluscan lineages, i.e., in chitons and the deep-sea living fossil monoplacophorans, was assumed to be a relict of ancestral molluscan segmentation and was commonly accepted to support a direct relationship with annelids. We were able to obtain one specimen of a monoplacophoran Antarctic deep-sea species for molecular study. The first molecular data on monoplacophorans, analyzed together with the largest data set of molluscs ever assembled, clearly illustrate that monoplacophorans and chitons form a clade. This "Serialia" concept may revolutionize molluscan systematics and may have important implications for metazoan evolution as it allows for new interpretations for primitive segmentation in molluscs.