Myxozoans are a clade of highly derived cnidarians. The phylogenetic identity of these extremely simplified parasites of aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates had long been uncertain, with all early classifications designating Myxozoa as protists. Though suggestions were frequently made that the infective spores of these parasites are multicellular and possibly of cnidarian origin, it would take a phylogenetic analysis of ultrastructural developmental characters in combination with rRNA gene sequences to verify the Myxozoa as secondarily reduced cnidarians, sister to the polypoidozoan parasite Polypodium hydriforme. While a series of subsequent molecular studies suggested hypotheses of Myxozoa as basal bilaterians, triploblasts, or even nematodes, phylogenomic analyses with improved taxon sampling corroborated the landmark paper that verified the cnidarian nature of this group. This review of the body of phylogenetic work on Myxozoa aims to clarify historical progress and current knowledge, as well as to emphasize the opportune position that myxozoan biologists now are in, to address fundamental questions of cell biology of these parasites as well as the evolution of animal life.
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