Schistosomes are digenean flukes, parasitic of birds, mammals and crocodiles. The family Schistosomatidae contains species of considerable medical and veterinary importance, which cause the disease schistosomiasis. Previous studies, both morphological and molecular, which have provided a good deal of information on the phylogenetics of this group, have been limited in the number of species investigated or the type or extent of molecular data used. This paper presents the most comprehensive phylogeny to date, based on the sequences of 3 genes, complete ribosomal small subunit rRNA and large ribosomal subunit rRNA, and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1, sequenced from 30 taxa including at least 1 representative from 10 of the 13 known genera of the Schistosomatidae and 17 of the 20 recognized Schistosoma species. The phylogeny is examined using morphological characters, intermediate and definitive host associations and biogeography. Theories as to the origins and spread of Schistosoma are also explored. The principal findings are that Ornithobilharzia and Austrobilharzia form a sister group to the Schistosoma; mammalian schistosomes appear paraphyletic and 2 Trichobilharzia species, T. ocellata and T. szidati, seem to be synonymous. The position of Orientobilharzia within the Schistosoma is confirmed, as is an Asian origin for the Schistosoma, followed by subsequent dispersal through India and Africa.
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