Proteocephalidean tapeworms form a diverse group of parasites currently known from 315 valid species. Most of the diversity of adult proteocephalideans can be found in freshwater fishes (predominantly catfishes), a large proportion infects reptiles, but only a few infect amphibians, and a single species has been found to parasitize possums. Although they have a cosmopolitan distribution, a large proportion of taxa are exclusively found in South America. We analyzed the largest proteocephalidean cestode molecular dataset to date comprising more than 100 species (30 new), including representatives from 54 genera (80%) and all subfamilies, thus significantly improving upon previous works to develop a molecular phylogeny for the group. The Old World origin of proteocephalideans is confirmed, with their more recent expansion in South America. The earliest diverging lineages are composed of Acanthotaeniinae and Gangesiinae but most of the presently recognized subfamilies (and genera) appear not to be monophyletic; a deep systematic reorganization of the order is thus needed and the present subfamilial system should be abandoned. The main characters on which the classical systematics of the group has been built, such as scolex morphology or relative position of genital organs in relation to the longitudinal musculature, are of limited value, as demonstrated by the very weak support for morphologically-defined subfamilies. However, new characters, such as the pattern of uterus development, relative ovary size, and egg structure have been identified, which may be useful in defining phylogenetically well-supported subgroups. A strongly supported lineage infecting various snakes from a wide geographical distribution was found. Although several improvements over previous works regarding phylogenetic resolution and taxon coverage were achieved in this study, the major polytomy in our tree, composed largely of siluriform parasites from the Neotropics, remained unresolved and possibly reflects a rapid radiation. The genus Spasskyellina Freze, 1965 is resurrected for three species of Monticellia bearing spinitriches on the margins of their suckers.
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