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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31165. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031165. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Shedding light on vampires: the phylogeny of vampyrellid amoebae revisited.

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Cologne Biocenter, Botanical Institute, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.


With the advent of molecular phylogenetic techniques the polyphyly of naked filose amoebae has been proven. They are interspersed in several supergroups of eukaryotes and most of them already found their place within the tree of life. Although the 'vampire amoebae' have attracted interest since the middle of the 19th century, the phylogenetic position and even the monophyly of this traditional group are still uncertain. In this study clonal co-cultures of eight algivorous vampyrellid amoebae and the respective food algae were established. Culture material was characterized morphologically and a molecular phylogeny was inferred using SSU rDNA sequence comparisons. We found that the limnetic, algivorous vampyrellid amoebae investigated in this study belong to a major clade within the Endomyxa Cavalier-Smith, 2002 (Cercozoa), grouping together with a few soil-dwelling taxa. They split into two robust clades, one containing species of the genus Vampyrella Cienkowski, 1865, the other containing the genus Leptophrys Hertwig & Lesser, 1874, together with terrestrial members. Supported by morphological data these clades are designated as the two families Vampyrellidae Zopf, 1885, and Leptophryidae fam. nov. Furthermore the order Vampyrellida West, 1901 was revised and now corresponds to the major vampyrellid clade within the Endomyxa, comprising the Vampyrellidae and Leptophryidae as well as several environmental sequences. In the light of the presented phylogenetic analyses morphological and ecological aspects, the feeding strategy and nutritional specialization within the vampyrellid amoebae are discussed.

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