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BMC Evol Biol. 2010 Jul 28;10:228. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-228.

History of myxozoan character evolution on the basis of rDNA and EF-2 data.

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Institute of Parasitology, Biology Centre, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Branisovská 31, 370 05 Ceské Budĕjovice, Czech Republic.



Phylogenetic relationships among myxosporeans based on ribosomal DNA data disagree with traditional taxonomic classification: a number of myxosporeans with very similar spore morphology are assigned to the same genera even though they are phylogenetically distantly related. The credibility of rDNA as a suitable marker for Myxozoa is uncertain and needs to be proved. Furthermore, we need to know the history of myxospore evolution to understand the great diversity of modern species.


Phylogenetic analysis of elongation factor 2 supports the ribosomal DNA-based reconstruction of myxozoan evolution. We propose that SSU rDNA is a reliable marker for inferring myxozoan relationships, even though SSU rDNA analysis markedly disagrees with the current taxonomy. The analyses of character evolution of 15 morphological and 5 bionomical characters show the evolution of individual characters and uncover the main evolutionary changes in the myxosporean spore morphology and bionomy. Most bionomical and several morphological characters were found to be congruent with the phylogeny. The summary of character analyses leads to the simulation of myxozoan ancestral morphotypes and their evolution to the current species. As such, the ancestor of all myxozoans appears to have infected the renal tubules of freshwater fish, was sphaerosporid in shape, and had a spore with polar capsules that discharged slightly sideways. After the separation of Malacosporea, the spore of the common myxosporean ancestor then changed to the typical sphaerosporid morphotype. This species inhabited the marine environment as a parasite of the gall bladder of marine fish and ultimately separated into the three main myxosporean lineages evident today. Two of these lineages re-entered the freshwater environment, one as a myxosporean with Chloromyxum and another with a primitive sphaerosporid morphotype. The common ancestor of all marine myxosporeans had a ceratomyxid shape of spore.


We support rDNA based myxozoan phylogeny by the analysis of a protein coding gene and demonstrate the reliability of rDNA as a marker explaining myxozoan relationships. Our tracing the history of myxozoan character evolution discloses ancestral morphotypes and shows their development over the course of evolution. We point out several myxozoan characters that are to a certain extent congruent with the phylogeny and determined that the discrepancy between phylogeny and current taxonomy based on spore morphology is due to an extreme myxospore plasticity occurring during myxozoan evolution.

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