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Keywords:

  • biodiversity;
  • ciliated protozoa;
  • protist;
  • karyorelictid;
  • biogeography;
  • ubiquity;
  • Loxodes rex

Abstract

There is no consensus on the question of whether or not free-living protist species have biogeographies, with the strongest disagreement coming from advocates of the hypothesis that the extraordinary abundance of protists drives their ubiquitous dispersal. If the probability of a species being ubiquitous is a function of its absolute global abundance, then the species that are least likely to be ubiquitous are those with relatively small global populations, i.e. the largest species. Among the free-living ciliated protozoa, a prime candidate for such an organism must be the large (∼1200 μm long), unmistakable, fragile, non-encysting karyorelictid Loxodes rex. This ciliate was known only from fresh waters in tropical Africa and it was long considered to be a rare example of an endemic ciliate. Here it is reported that Loxodes rex is thriving in a pond in Thailand. The status of other alleged endemic ciliate species is discussed.