Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

James R. Garey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard P. Wunderlin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Florence M. Thomas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Frank A. Romano, III, Ph.D.


Ecdysozoa, Meiofauna, Phylogeny, 18s rrna, Morphology


A character data set suitable for cladistic analysis of tardigrades at the family level was developed. The data matrix consisted of 50 morphological characters from 15 families of tardigrades and was analyzed by maximum parsimony. Kinorhynchs, loriciferans and gastrotrichs were used as outgroups. The results agree with the currently accepted hypothesis that Eutardigrada and Heterotardigrada are distinct monophyletic groups. Among the eutardigrades, Eoyhypsibiidae was found to be a sister group to Macrobiotidae + Hypsibiidae, while Milnesiidae was the basal eutardigrade family. The basal heterotardigrade family was found to be Oreellidae. Echiniscoideans grouped with some traditional Arthrotardigrada (Renaudarctidae, Coronarctidae + Batillipedidae) suggesting that the arthrotardigrades are not monophyletic. An 18S rRNA phylogenetic hypothesis was developed and supports the monophyly of Heterotardigrada and of Parachela versus Apochela within the Eutardigrada. Mapping of habitat preference suggest that terrestrial tardigrades are the ancestral state. Molecular analysis of a sediment sample with an unusually large population of tardigrades had a higher diversity when compared to manual sorting and counting.