Phylogenetic relationships among peritrich ciliates remain unclear in spite of recent progress. To expand the analyses performed in previous studies, and to statistically test hypotheses of monophyly, we analyzed a broad sample of 18s rRNA sequences (including 15 peritrich genera), applying a conservative alignment strategy and several phylogenetic approaches. The main results are that: (i) the monophyly of Peritrichia cannot be rejected; (ii) the two main clades of Sessilida do not correspond to formally recognized taxa; (iii) the monophyly of genera Vorticella and Epistylis is significantly rejected; and (iv) morphological structures commonly used in peritrich taxonomy may be evolutionarily labile.
We investigated temporal and spatial patterns of distribution in two peritrich ciliates (i.e. Zoothamnium intermedium and Epistylis sp.) living as epibionts on calanoid copepods (i.e. Acartia tonsa and Eurytemora affinis) in Chesapeake Bay. Net tow samples collected along the main axis of the Bay were analyzed to estimate the occurrence of epibionts on copepods and to explore relationships among infestation prevalence, host abundance, and environmental variables. Zoothamnium intermedium and Epistylis sp. colonized populations of A. tonsa during spring and summer months, while only Z. intermedium colonized E. affinis during spring. Occurrence of epibionts on copepods showed high interannual variation, marked seasonality, and geographic heterogeneity. Extensive statistical analyses rejected simple scenarios of interactions between epibiosis, environmental variables, and host density, suggesting a more complex dynamics for the system. Analyses of epibiont colonies and zooids per host area (i.e. the sum of width and length of the body including antennae and swimming legs calculated assuming a cylindrical shape) were also performed. Overall, epibiont infestation prevalence (i.e. colonies/host area) and load (i.e. zooids/host area) were higher on copepodites than on adults for both host species, suggesting a preferential attachment to juveniles, or a higher predation pressure on adult stages. Infestation density and loads of both epibiont species were higher on the cephalothorax and abdomen of A. tonsa and E. affinis in comparison to the antennae and swimming legs, suggesting that ciliates can more easily colonize less active parts of the host.
We have generated 18S rRNA sequences for peritrichs collected in Brazil, including four Opercularia species, two different populations of Epistylis plicatilis (one epibiont and another free-living), and one additional Epistylis species. Our Opercularia species clustered with the previously available Opercularia microdiscum, corroborating the monophyly of this genus. The Epistylis sampled here clustered with previously sequenced species of this genus. The two populations of E. plicatilis collected in Brazil clustered closely together despite their different ecological contexts, whereas both were very divergent from the sample assigned to the same species previously sampled in China. If affirmed by additional morphological corroboration of species assignment, this observation would indicate that samples from different continents morphologically allocated in the same species may in fact belong to distant evolutionary lineages. More broadly, our results support the recognition of two major clades within Peritrichia. Given the robustness of their support, we suggest that these two clades should be formally recognized as orders, and propose the names Vorticellida and Operculariida to designate them. Furthermore, Epistylis species occurred in both orders, tending to occupy basal positions. This suggests that characters used to define this genus may be plesiomorphic for Peritrichia, so that Epistylis may in fact represent an assemblage of basal species retaining ancestral features.
An oligohalobic peritrichous ciliate, Epistylis chlorelligerum Shen, 1980, was collected from a ditch in Hangzhou, China. The morphology, oral infraciliature, and morphogenesis of the species were studied using living and protargol-impregnated specimens. Zooids of E. chlorelligerum are 160-230 × 50-60 μm in vivo, and characterized by green-colored endoplasm containing symbiotic algae. The oral infraciliature presents a well-developed filamentous reticulum linked to the circular fiber of the cytostome; the outer two rows of P3 extend adstomally over P1 and usually enfold it. During binary fission, one daughter cell inherits most part of the old buccal apparatus and the reorganized haplokinety and germinal kinety (Hk' and G'), and new buccal apparatus of the other daughter cell is mostly developed from the original germinal kinety (G) and haplokinety (Hk): new peniculi 2, 3 (2P2, 2P3), new haplokinety (2Hk), and new germinal kinety (2G) are formed from G, while the new peniculus 1 (2P1) and its peristomial extention (2Pk) originate from Hk. The epistomial membrane can be observed until the two sets of buccal apparatus begin to separate from each other.
Bromeliads are a diverse group of plants that includes many species whose individuals are capable of retaining water, forming habitats called phytotelmata. These habitats harbor a diversity of organisms including prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes, metazoans, and fungi. Among single-celled eukaryotic organisms, ciliates are generally the most abundant. In the present study, we used Illumina DNA sequencing to survey the eukaryotic communities, especially ciliates, inhabiting the tanks of the bromeliads Aechmea gamosepala and Vriesea platynema in the Atlantic Forest of southern Brazil. Filtered sequences were clustered into distinct OTUs using a 99% identity threshold, and then assigned to phylum and genus using a BLAST-based approach (implemented in QIIME) and the SILVA reference database. Both bromeliad species harbored very diverse eukaryotic communities, with Arthropoda and Ciliophora showing the highest abundance (as estimated by the number of sequence reads). The ciliate genus Tetrahymena was the most abundant among single-celled organisms, followed by apicomplexan gregarines and the ciliate genus Glaucoma. Another interesting finding was the presence and high abundance of Trypanosoma in these bromeliad tanks, demonstrating their occurrence in this type of environment. The results presented here demonstrate a hidden diversity of eukaryotes in bromeliad tank waters, opening up new avenues for their in-depth characterization.
This study evaluated the influence of rainfall amount on the abundance, species richness, and species occurrence and abundance distribution of the ciliate community associated with the bromeliad Aechmea distichantha. The plants were collected from a rock wall of about 10-km long at the left bank of Paraná River. We assessed the effects of both spatial and temporal variables on the community attributes, as well as whether plants geographically closer have a similar abundance distribution and species composition. The ciliate community was substantially distinct between both hydrological periods, with greater values of species richness and abundance in the rainy period. No spatial structuring (differences in the species occurrence and abundance distribution among strata) or geographical similarity (similarity in ciliate species composition among the plants) was found. Multiple regression analysis showed a positive relationship only between the ciliate abundances and water volumes for both periods. Although few of the formulated predictions were confirmed, our study provides valuable information on the ecological aspects of the ciliate community inhabiting bromeliad phytotelmata.
Since ciliates rarely possess structures that easily fossilize, we are limited in our ability to use paleontological studies to reconstruct the early evolution of this large and ecologically important clade of protists. Tintinnids, a group of loricate (house-forming) planktonic ciliates, are the only group that has a significant fossil record. Putative tintinnid fossils from rocks older than Jurassic, however, possess few to no characters that can be found in extant ciliates; these fossils are best described as 'incertae sedis eukaryotes'. Here, we review the Devonian fossil Nassacysta reticulata and propose that it is likewise another incertae sedis eukaryote due to the lack of any unambiguous ciliate characters. Future tintinnid fossil descriptions would be most helpful if: (i) neutral terminology is used in the descriptions but ciliate-specific terminology in the interpretations; (ii) the current ciliate classification is used, although fossil data may expand or modify classifications based on modern forms; (iii) close collaboration with specialists studying extant ciliates is done; and (iv) editors include an expert of extant ciliates in the review process.
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