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The taxonomic identity of the palaeonemertean Cephalothrix linearis (Rathke, 1799) has been obscure for nearly two centuries, because its original description applies to almost any congeners, including Cephalothrix filiformis (Johnston 1828) and Cephalothrix rufifrons (Johnston, 1837), which occur commonly in the North Sea and adjacent waters. In this paper, I redescribe C. linearis based on two topotypes from Bergen, one herein designated as the neotype for C. linearis, because Rathke’s original material is not extant; I invoke Article 70.3.2 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to fix Planaria linearis Rathke, 1799 as the type species of Cephalothrix Örsted, 1843 for the sake of stability. From the neotype, I determined sequences of the 28S rRNA, 16S rRNA, and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) genes. Using the COI sequence, I inferred the phylogenetic position of C. linearis along with 316 cephalotrichid sequences currently available in public databases. A tree-based species delimitation analysis detected 43 entities among them, with 34 in Cephalothrix and nine in either
Balionemertes or Cephalotrichella. I apply valid species names to 12 of the 34 entities in Cephalothrix. I tabulated a total of 36 nominal species that are likely the members of the genus; the following five were excluded even though their specific names were originally combined with Cephalothrix: Cephalothrix armata Ulyanin, 1870 [Monostilifera, possibly Emplectonema gracile (Johnston, 1837)], Cephalothrix fragilis Bürger, 1892 [now Cephalotrichella signata (Hubrecht, 1879)], Cephalothrix signata Hubrecht, 1879 [now in Cephalotrichella], Cephalothrix unipunctata Parfitt, 1867 [now Tetrastemma melanocephalum (Johnston, 1837) (Monostilifera)], and Cephalothrix viridis Chapuis, 1886 [possibly Heteronemertea]. The five names cephalothrix Diesing, 1850 (as Borlasia cephalothrix), kroyeri Diesing, 1850 (as Cephalothrix kroyeri), linearis Diesing, 1850 (as Borlasia linearis), lineata Claparède, 1862 (as Cephalothrix lineata), and oerstedii Diesing, 1850 (as Cephalothrix oerstedii) are
declared nomenclaturally unavailable.
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