• Bolidophyceae;
  • diatoms;
  • Heterokonta;
  • marine picoeukaryotes;
  • oligotrophic ocean;
  • Stramenopiles

A new algal class, the Bolidophyceae (Heterokonta), is described from one genus, Bolidomonas, gen. nov., and two species, Bolidomonas pacifica, sp. nov and Bolidomonas mediterranea, sp. nov., isolated from the equatorial Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, respectively. Both species are approximately 1.2 μm in diameter and have two unequal flagella; the longer flagellum bears tubular hairs, whereas the shorter is smooth. The flagellar basal apparatus is restricted to two basal bodies, and there is no transitional helix. Cells are naked, devoid of walls or siliceous structures. The internal cellular organization is simple with a single plastid containing a ring genophore and a girdle lamella, one mitochondrion with tubular cristae, and one Golgi apparatus close to the basal bodies. The Mediterranean and the Pacific species differ in the insertion angle between their flagella and their pattern of swimming, these differences possibly being linked to each other. Analyses of the SSU rDNA gene place the two strains as a sister group to the diatoms. Moreover, pigment analyses confirm this position, as fucoxanthin is found as the major carotenoid in both lineages. These data strongly suggest that the ancestral heterokont that gave rise to the diatom lineage was probably a biflagellated unicell.