Masters of miniaturization: Convergent evolution among interstitial eukaryotes

Authors

  • Rebecca J. Rundell,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
    • Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.
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  • Brian S. Leander

    1. Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
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Abstract

Marine interstitial environments are teeming with an extraordinary diversity of coexisting microeukaryotic lineages collectively called “meiofauna.” Interstitial habitats are broadly distributed across the planet, and the complex physical features of these environments have persisted, much like they exist today, throughout the history of eukaryotes, if not longer. Although our general understanding of the biological diversity in these environments is relatively poor, compelling examples of developmental heterochrony (e.g., pedomorphosis) and convergent evolution appear to be widespread among meiofauna. Therefore, an improved understanding of meiofaunal biodiversity is expected to provide some of the deepest insights into the following themes in evolutionary biology: (i) the origins of novel body plans, (ii) macroevolutionary patterns of miniaturization, and (iii) the intersection of evolution and community assembly – e.g., “community convergence” involving distantly related lineages that span the tree of eukaryotes.

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