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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Comparative morphology and molecular evolution of marine interstitial cercozoans Chantangsi, Chitchai


The Cercozoa is an extremely diverse and poorly understood group of amoeboflagellated microeukaryotes that are united mainly by molecular phylogenetic data; a concrete synapomorphy at the morphological level has yet to be identified for the group. In order to better understand the biodiversity and evolutionary history of this lineage, I explored several marine benthic habitats in British Columbia, Canada and characterized novel cercozoans with high-resolution light microscopy and electron microscopy. Comparative ultrastructural studies using scanning and transmission electron microscopy on some of the newly discovered taxa demonstrated several novel features, including putative primary endosymbionts in one lineage (i.e., Auranticordis) and homologous patterns of muciferous bodies beneath the cell surface in another lineage. I coupled these morphological data with molecular phylogenetic analyses of small subunit (SSU) and large subunit (LSU) rDNA sequences and comparative analyses of polyubiquitin genes. This approach provided evidence that a concatenation of SSU and LSU rDNA sequences improves the phylogenetic resolution within the Cercozoa and that an insertion of one or two amino acids at the junctions between monomers in the polyubiquitin gene is a universal molecular signature for cercozoans (and foraminiferans). This study also enabled me to discover and describe eleven new species and five new genera, which underscores how poorly we currently understand the diversity of these marine microeukaryotic predators. The acquired SSU rDNA sequences from these novel lineages enabled me to provide the cellular identities of several environmental DNA sequence clades previously containing only uncharacterized taxa; these data also demonstrated the effectiveness of using a 600-bp fragment of the SSU rRNA gene for delimiting cercozoan species with limited morphological variation.

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