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The slow evolving genome of the xenacoelomorph worm Xenoturbella bocki

Philipp Schiffer
Liam Baudry
  • Function : Author
Fraser Simpson
  • Function : Author
Peter Sarkies


Abstract The evolutionary origins of Bilateria remain enigmatic. One of the more enduring proposals highlights similarities between a cnidarian-like planula larva and simple acoel-like flatworms. This idea is based in part on the view of the Xenacoelomorpha as an outgroup to all other bilaterians which are themselves designated the Nephrozoa (protostomes and deuterostomes). Genome data, which can help to elucidate phylogenetic relationships and provide important comparative data, remain sparse for early branching bilaterians. Here we assemble and analyse the genome of the simple, marine xenacoelomorph Xenoturbella bocki , a key species for our understanding of early bilaterian and deuterostome evolution. Our highly contiguous genome assembly of X. bocki has a size of ∼110 Mbp in 18 chromosome like scaffolds, with repeat content, and intron, exon and intergenic space comparable to other bilaterian invertebrates. We find X. bocki to have a similar number of genes to other bilaterians and to have retained ancestral metazoan synteny. Key bilaterian signalling pathways are also largely complete and most bilaterian miRNAs are present. We conclude that X. bocki has a complex genome typical of bilaterians, in contrast to the apparent simplicity of its body plan. Overall, our data do not provide evidence supporting the idea that Xenacoelomorpha are a primitively simple outgroup to other bilaterians and gene presence/absence data support a relationship with Ambulacraria.

Dates and versions

hal-03841567 , version 1 (07-11-2022)



Philipp Schiffer, Paschalis Natsidis, Daniel Leite, Helen Robertson, François Lapraz, et al.. The slow evolving genome of the xenacoelomorph worm Xenoturbella bocki. 2022. ⟨hal-03841567⟩
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