Schmidingerothrix salinarum nov. spec. is the Molecular Sister of the Large Oxytrichid Clade (Ciliophora, Hypotricha)



In 2012, Foissner described a curious hypotrich: Schmidingerothrix extraordinaria. This ciliate, which he discovered in hypersaline soils (~100‰) from Namibia, had a frayed buccal lip, three-rowed adoral membranelles, only one frontal cirrus, and a miniaturized first frontal membranelle, while a paroral membrane, dorsal bristle rows and buccal, transverse and caudal cirri were absent. All opisthe structures developed de novo, while parental structures were involved in the proter. When Foissner's study became available, we discovered a similar species in a Portuguese solar saltern, differing from S. extraordinaria mainly by the number of frontoventral cirral rows (3 vs. 1). Furthermore, parental structures were involved in the ontogenesis of both proter and opisthe. The small subunit (SSU) rDNA shows Schmidingerothrix as sister of a large clade containing most classical oxytrichids (e.g. Sterkiella, Oxytricha, Steinia) and many related taxa (e.g. Pattersoniella, Bistichella, Uroleptus). This clade shows a bifurcation named “Oxytricha subclade” and “Uroleptus subclade”. Foissner (2012) interpreted the peculiarities of Schmidingerothrix as a reduction caused by the extreme habitat. However, the molecular data do not exclude that Schmidingerothrix presents an ancient state. A morphology-based scheme is presented, showing how the subclades might have evolved from a Schmidingerothrix-like ancestor.