Within the free-living platyhelminths, the triclads, or planarians, are the best-known group, largely as a result of long-standing and intensive research on regeneration, pattern formation and Hox gene expression. However, the group's evolutionary history has been long debated, with controversies ranging from their phyletic structure and position within the Metazoa to the relationships among species within the Tricladida. Over the the last decade, with the advent of molecular phylogenies, some of these issues have begun to be resolved. Here, we present an up-to-date summary of the main phylogenetic changes and novelties with some comments on their evolutionary implications. The phylum has been split into two groups, and the position of the main group (the Rhabdithophora and the Catenulida), close to the Annelida and the Mollusca within the Lophotrochozoa, is now clear. Their internal relationships, although not totally resolved, have been clarified. Tricladida systematics has also experienced a revolution since the implementation of molecular data. The terrestrial planarians have been demonstrated to have emerged from one of the freshwater families, giving a different view of their evolution and greatly altering their classification. The use of molecular data is also facilitating the identification of Tricladida species by DNA barcoding, allowing better knowledge of their distribution and genetic diversity. Finally, molecular phylogenetic and phylogeographical analyses, taking advantage of recent data, are beginning to give a clear picture of the recent history of the Dugesia and Schmidtea species in the Mediterranean.
- Molecular phylogeny