The enigmatic Placozoa part 1: Exploring evolutionary controversies and poor ecological knowledge
The placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens is a tiny hairy plate and more simply organized than any other living metazoan. After its original description by F.E. Schulze in 1883, it attracted attention as a potential model for the ancestral state of metazoan organization, the "Urmetazoon". Trichoplax lacks any kind of symmetry, organs, nerve cells, muscle cells, basal lamina, and extracellular matrix. Furthermore, the placozoan genome is the smallest (not secondarily reduced) genome of all metazoan genomes. It harbors a remarkably rich diversity of genes and has been considered the best living surrogate for a metazoan ancestor genome. The phylum Placozoa presently harbors three formally described species, while several dozen "cryptic" species are yet awaiting their description. The phylogenetic position of placozoans has recently become a contested arena for modern phylogenetic analyses and view-driven claims. Trichoplax offers unique prospects for understanding the minimal requirements of metazoan animal organization and their corresponding malfunctions.