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Molecular phylogeny of the oxymonads Heiss, Aaron Andrew


The oxymonads are a group of structurally complex anaerobic flagellates about which we know very little. They are found in association with complex microbial communities in the guts of animals. There are five recognized families of oxymonads; molecular data have been acquired for four of these. Here, I describe the first molecular data from the last remaining group, represented by Saccinobaculus, an organism that is found exclusively in the hindgut of the wood-eating cockroach Cryptocercus. I sequenced small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) from total gut DNA to describe Saccinobaculus SSU rRNA diversity. I also sequenced SSU rRNA from manually isolated cells of the two most abundant and readily identifiable species: the type species S. ambloaxostylus and the taxonomically contentious S. doroaxostylus. I inferred phylogenetic trees including all five known oxymonad subgroups in order to elucidate the internal phylogeny of this poorly-studied group, to resolve some outstanding issues of the taxonomy and identification of certain Saccinobaculus species, and to investigate the evolution of character states within it. My analysis recovered strong support for the existence of the five subgroups of oxymonads, and consistently grouped the subgroups containing Monocercomonoides and Streblomastix, but was unable to resolve any further higher-order branching patterns. Additionally, I sequenced alpha-tubulin from S. ambloaxostylus, which in conjunction with environmentally obtained tubulin sequences established the use of an alternate genetic code by organisms related to Monocercomonoides and not by Saccinobaculus. This same alternate code is also used by Streblomastix, further cementing the relationship between that organism and the group including Monocercomonoides.

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