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Eur J Protistol. 2014 Oct;50(5):472-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ejop.2014.07.002. Epub 2014 Jul 30.

Gregarine site-heterogeneous 18S rDNA trees, revision of gregarine higher classification, and the evolutionary diversification of Sporozoa.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK. Electronic address:


Gregarine 18S ribosomal DNA trees are hard to resolve because they exhibit the most disparate rates of rDNA evolution of any eukaryote group. As site-heterogeneous tree-reconstruction algorithms can give more accurate trees, especially for technically unusually challenging groups, I present the first site-heterogeneous rDNA trees for 122 gregarines and an extensive set of 452 appropriate outgroups. While some features remain poorly resolved, these trees fit morphological diversity better than most previous, evolutionarily less realistic, maximum likelihood trees. Gregarines are probably polyphyletic, with some 'eugregarines' and all 'neogregarines' (both abandoned as taxa) being more closely related to Cryptosporidium and Rhytidocystidae than to archigregarines. I establish a new subclass Orthogregarinia (new orders Vermigregarida, Arthrogregarida) for gregarines most closely related to Cryptosporidium and group Orthogregarinia, Cryptosporidiidae, and Rhytidocystidae as revised class Gregarinomorphea. Archigregarines are excluded from Gregarinomorphea and grouped with new orders Velocida (Urosporoidea superfam. n. and Veloxidium) and Stenophorida as a new sporozoan class Paragregarea. Platyproteum and Filipodium never group with Orthogregarinia or Paragregarea and are sufficiently different morphologically to merit a new order Squirmida. I revise gregarine higher-level classification generally in the light of site-heterogeneous-model trees, discuss their evolution, and also sporozoan cell structure and life-history evolution, correcting widespread misinterpretations.


Cryptosporidium classification; Orthogregarinia; Paragregarinea; Squirmidea; Stenophora; Terragregarina

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