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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 1998 Dec;10(3):436-48.

Large-subunit ribosomal RNA systematics of symbiotic dinoflagellates: morphology does not recapitulate phylogeny.

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  • Department of Biology, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, 77025, USA. wilcox@phylo.zo.utexas.edu


Biochemical, histological, physiological, and genetic evidence indicates that dinoflagellates symbiotic with marine invertebrates are a heterogeneous complex of taxa, representing at least five genera in three orders. Despite a wealth of data regarding morphological, biochemical, and behavioral differences among symbiotic dinoflagellates, knowledge concerning patterns of diversification is limited. I analyzed approximately 900 bp of the 5' end of the large-subunit ribosomal RNA gene from 14 dinoflagellate isolates: six cultured Symbiodinium specimens, two cultured symbiotic Gymnodinium, two algal samples isolated from reef-building corals, an algal sample obtained from cultures of the jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana, and three free-living Gymnodinium isolates. Results show that morphological similarities among the examined symbiotic taxa do not necessarily correspond with molecular phylogeny. The included Symbiodinium taxa represent a paraphyletic assemblage while Gymnodinium is reconstructed as a polyphyletic assemblage. Analysis indicates that all the included symbiotic dinoflagellates descended from a common, symbiotic ancestor (though within the dinoflagellates, symbiosis is a polyphyletic trait). Additionally, two free-living dinoflagellates emerge within the symbiotic clade, suggesting that the symbiotic lifestyle has been lost at least once in this group. It has been hypothesized that rates of evolution within mutualistic endosymbioses should be reduced relative to free-living taxa. However, results indicate that rates of molecular, morphological, biochemical and behavioral change are similar among branches leading to symbiotic and free-living dinoflagellates.

Copyright 1998 Academic Press.

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