Phylogenetic Relationships of Orders Within the Class Colpodea (Phylum Ciliophora) Inferred from Small Subunit rRNA Gene Sequences
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Molecular analyses have been used recently to refine our knowledge of phylogenetic relationships within the ciliated protozoa (phylum Ciliophora). A current Hennigian phylogeny of the orders in the class Colpodea, based on light and electron microscopic analyses, makes three important assumptions with regard to apomorphic character states, namely, (1) that the kreyellid silver line evolved early in colpodean phylogeny, separating bryometopids, such as Bryometopus, from all other colpodeans; (2) that the macro–micronuclear complex is an autapomorphy of the cyrtolophosidids, such as Platyophrya; and (3) that merotelokinetal stomatogenesis is an apomorphic character of colpodids, such as Colpoda, Bresslaua, and Pseudoplatyophrya. These predictions of relationships within the class Colpodea were investigated by determining the complete small subunit rRNA gene sequences for the colpodid Bresslaua vorax, the grossglockneriid Pseudoplatyophrya nana, and the cyrtolophosidid Platyophrya vorax and a partial sequence for the bryometopid Bryometopus sphagni. These sequences were combined with the previously published complete SSrRNA sequences for the colpodid Colpoda inflata and the bursariomorphid Bursaria truncatella. The affiliations were assessed using both distance matrix and maximum-parsimony analyses. The tree topologies for the class Colpodea were identical in all analyses, with bootstrap support for bifurcations always exceeding 60%. The results suggest the following. (1) Since the clade including Bryometopus and its sister taxon, Bursaria, is never basal, the kreyellid silver-line system evolved later in colpodean phylogeny and does not separate bryometopids from all other colpodeans. (2) Since Platyophrya is always the sister taxon to the other five genera, there is a fundamental phylogenetic significance for its macro–micronuclear complex. (3) Since the colpodids, Colpoda, Bresslaua, and Pseudoplatyophrya, always group in one clade, merotelokinetal stomatogenesis appears to be a derived character state.
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