The Long-time Orphan Protist Meringosphaera mediterranea Lohmann, 1902 [1903] is a Centrohelid Heliozoan

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Meringosphaera is an enigmatic marine protist without clear phylogenetic affiliation, but it has long been suggested to be a chrysophytes-related autotroph. Microscopy-based reports indicate that it has a worldwide distribution, but no sequence data exists so far. We obtained the first 18S rDNA sequence for M. mediterranea (identified using light and electron microscopy) from the west coast of Sweden. Observations of living cells revealed granulated axopodia and up to 6 globular photosynthesizing bodies about 2 μm in diameter, the nature of which requires further investigation. The ultrastructure of barbed undulating spine-scales and patternless plate-scales with a central thickening is in agreement with previous reports. Molecular phylogenetic analysis placed M. mediterranea inside the NC5 environmental clade of Centroplasthelida (Haptista) along with additional environmental sequences, together closely related to Choanocystidae. This placement is supported by similar scales in Meringosphaera and Choanocystidae. We searched the Tara Oceans 18S-V9 metabarcoding dataset which revealed four OTUs with 94.8-98.2% similarity, with oceanic distribution similar to that based on morphological observations. The current taxonomic position and species composition of the genus are discussed. The planktonic lifestyle of M. mediterranea contradicts the view of some authors that centrohelids enter the plankton only temporarily.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e12860
JournalJournal of Eukaryotic Microbiology
Early online date2021
StatePublished - 28 May 2021


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