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Mol Ecol. 2018 Jul;27(13):2846-2857. doi: 10.1111/mec.14731. Epub 2018 Jun 17.

Consistent patterns of high alpha and low beta diversity in tropical parasitic and free-living protists.

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Department of Ecology, University of Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany.
CIRAD, UMR LSTM, Montpellier, France.
Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum London, London, UK.
Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Weymouth, Dorset, UK.
School of Applied Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK.


Tropical animals and plants are known to have high alpha diversity within forests, but low beta diversity between forests. By contrast, it is unknown whether microbes inhabiting the same ecosystems exhibit similar biogeographic patterns. To evaluate the biogeographies of tropical protists, we used metabarcoding data of species sampled in the soils of three lowland Neotropical rainforests. Taxa-area and distance-decay relationships for three of the dominant protist taxa and their subtaxa were estimated at both the OTU and phylogenetic levels, with presence-absence and abundance-based measures. These estimates were compared to null models. High local alpha and low regional beta diversity patterns were consistently found for both the parasitic Apicomplexa and the largely free-living Cercozoa and Ciliophora. Similar to animals and plants, the protists showed spatial structures between forests at the OTU and phylogenetic levels, and only at the phylogenetic level within forests. These results suggest that the biogeographies of macro- and micro-organismal eukaryotes in lowland Neotropical rainforests are partially structured by the same general processes. However, and unlike the animals and plants, the protist OTUs did not exhibit spatial structures within forests, which hinders our ability to estimate the local and regional diversity of protists in tropical forests.


Apicomplexa; Cercozoa; Ciliophora; Neotropics; biogeography; phylogeny


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