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Discovery of a Diverse Clade of Gregarine Apicomplexans (Apicomplexa: Eugregarinorida) from Pacific Eunicid and Onuphid Polychaetes, Including Descriptions of Paralecudina n. gen., Trichotokara japonica n. sp., and T. eunicae n. sp.



S. Rueckert, School of Life, Sport and Social Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University, Sighthill Campus, Sighthill Court, Edinburgh EH11 4BN, United Kingdom

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Marine gregarines are poorly understood apicomplexan parasites with large trophozoites that inhabit the body cavities of marine invertebrates. Two novel species of gregarines were discovered in polychaete hosts collected in Canada and Japan. The trophozoites of Trichotokara japonica n. sp. were oval to rhomboidal shaped, and covered with longitudinal epicytic folds with a density of six to eight folds/micron. The nucleus was situated in the middle of the cell, and the mucron was elongated and covered with hair-like projections; antler-like projections also extended from the anterior tip of the mucron. The distinctively large trophozoites of Trichotokara eunicae n. sp. lacked an elongated mucron and had a tadpole-like cell shape consisting of a bulbous anterior region and a tapered tail-like posterior region. The cell surface was covered with longitudinal epicytic folds with a density of three to five folds/micron. Small subunit (SSU) rDNA sequences of both species were very divergent and formed a strongly supported clade with the recently described species Trichotokara nothriae and an environmental sequence (AB275074). This phylogenetic context combined with the morphological features of T. eunicae n. sp. required us to amend the description for Trichotokara. The sister clade to the Trichotokara clade consisted of environmental sequences and Lecudina polymorpha, which also possesses densely packed epicyctic folds (3–5 folds/micron) and a prominently elongated mucron. This improved morphological and molecular phylogenetic context justified the establishment of Paralecudina (ex. Lecudina) polymorpha n. gen. et comb.

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