Arcellinida (lobose testate amoebae) are abundant and diverse in many ecosystems, especially in moist to aquatic environments. Molecular phylogeny has shown that overall test morphology (e.g., spherical or elongate) is generally conserved in Arcellinida lineages, but the taxonomic value of other traits (e.g., size, ornamentation, mixotrophy/heterotrophy metabolism type) has not been systematically evaluated. Morphological and physiological traits that correspond to genetic differences likely represent adaptive traits of ecological significance. We combined high-resolution phylogenetics (NAD9-NAD7 genes) and advanced morphometrics to assess the phylogenetic signal of morphological traits of a group of elongate Difflugia species (Arcellinida). The phylogenetic analyses revealed two clades which could be reliably separated by test size and the presence/absence of mixotrophy. Differences in test size may reflect trophic level, with smaller organisms occupying lower trophic levels. In addition to having larger tests, elongate mixotrophic Difflugia are characterised by wide, flat bases and an inflation of the lower two thirds of their test. These morphological traits may provide additional volume for endosymbionts and/or increased surface area to aid light transmission. Our results showcase greater diversity within the elongate Difflugia and highlight morphological traits of ecological and evolutionary significance.
Macumber, A., Blandenier, Q., Todorov, M., Duckert, C., Lara, E., Lahr, D., Mitchell, E., & Roe, H. (2019). Phylogenetic divergence within the Arcellinida (Amoebozoa) is congruent with test size and metabolism type. European Journal of Protistology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejop.2019.125645