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Phylogeny, systematics and ecology of free living protists: case study: family Hyalospheniidae

2014, Kosakyan, Anush, Mitchell, Edward

Despite the fact that free-living protists compose the major part of Earth’s eukaryotic biodiversity and play numerous essential roles in ecosystems, knowledge on their true diversity, evolution and ecology remain highly limited.
In this thesis I choose testate amoebae as a model group to address several key questions on the diversity, evolution and ecology of free-living protists. Family Hyalospheniidae is one of the most species-rich and conspicuous families of testate amoebae combining species with a broad range of test shapes and ultra-structures. Some species are easily identifiable but several species complexes are composed of an unknown number of cryptic and pseudocryptic forms. Thus this is an excellent model group to address open questions on the concept of the species in free-living protists, to assess the validity of characters used to define “true species” and to reveal the true diversity and ecology of these organisms. The studies presented in this thesis are based on the combination of morphological (light and scanning-electron microscopy) and molecular approaches (mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 - COI - sequence data).
We used COI to assess the phylogenetic relationships and taxonomy of the family Hyalospheniidae in order to assess the validity of morphological characters within this group (Chapter 1). The COI data successfully separated all studied morphospecies and revealed the existence of several cryptic species. The phylogenetic analysis shows that genus Nebela was paraphyletic and could be split into genus Nebela s.str. and a newly defined genus, Padaungiella. Family Hyalospheniidae Schulze was redefined: Genus Quadrulella, one of the few arcellinid genera building its shell from self-secreted siliceous elements, the mixotrophic Hyalosphenia papilio, and six other genera of true Nebelids (Apodera, Alocodera, Certesella, Nebela, Porosia, Padaungiella) were included in this family, while genera Argynnia and Physochila did not. Thus we redefined the family as Hyalospheniidae Kosakyan et Lara, which now includes Hyalosphenia, Quadrulella (previously in the Lesquereusiidae) and all true Nebelids. We defined the general morphology of the shell and the presence of an organic rim around the aperture as synapomorphies for Hyalospheniidae.
Our next task was to analyse in more depth the complex group of species in the Hyalospheniids.
We examined the relationship between the morphological and genetic diversity within two species complexes, Nebela collaris s.l. and Quadrulella symmetrica s.l. We combined analyses of light microscopy imaging and COI sequence data obtained from the same individual single cell (Chapters 2 and 3). We showed that small variations in test morphology easily overlooked by traditional taxonomy corresponded to separate, sometimes quite divergent, genotypes. The position of each taxa within species complex was revised, and overall the taxonomy of these two species complexes was redefined.
We developed a method to estimate the qualitative and quantitative community structure of Nebela collaris species complex from environmental samples, and validated this approach through microscopic observations (Chapter 4). We assessed the relative biomass and density of species using cloning-sequencing of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxydase (COI) gene amplified from environmental DNA and from artificial communities. Comparisons with direct microscopy counts showed that the COI clone library data were correlated to community counts corrected for biovolume, which allowed making inferences about individual taxon abundance and biomass in a community. We then used this approach to define the ecological niches of closely related /cryptic species in the different microhabitats that compose a peatland complex (Appendix I, contribution as a second author). Our sequence analysis revealed four of the seven barcoded Nebela collaris s.l. species, plus two new genotypes of yet unknown morphology. Species ranged from generalists found in most habitats (e.g. N. collaris) to specialists, encountered only but pervasively in particular habitats (e.g. N. rotunda in forested bogs). Experimental approaches would be needed to assess whether the observed niches correspond to the ecological optimum of the different species or if some at least are pushed towards less favourable habitats by competition. Our study suggests that speciation should have occurred sympatrically by specialization towards divergent niches instead of through geographical isolation.
My direct contribution to the taxonomy of this group was the introduction of one new genus Padaungiella Lara et Todorov, and four novel species of Nebela: N. aliciae Mitchell et Lara, N. guttata Kosakyan et Lara, N. meisterfeldi Heger et Mitchell, N. pechorensis Kosakyan et Mitchell. Additionally at least 3 potentially new Quadrulella species will be described (work in progress).
Finally we compiled all known taxonomic, molecular and ecological data on hyalospheniid testate amoeba in a monograph entitled “Family Hyalospheniidae” (Chapter 5). Based on a careful revision of historical data combined with recent molecular data, this work aims at establishing a clear state of the art of current knowledge on the diversity of this family, providing improved species descriptions of hyalospheniid testate amoebae and hopefully to familiarize a broader audience with these beautiful protists.
Overall my thesis illustrates how traditional taxonomy often underestimates the true diversity of microorganisms, and calls for a renewed research effort on the taxonomy of free-living protists. My work contributes of understanding of a tiny piece of microbial diversity and shows how a combination of morphological and molecular approached can help improving our knowledge on the evolution, systematics and ecology of these organisms.

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Environmental DNA COI barcoding for quantitative analysis of protists communities: A test using the Nebela collaris complex (Amoebozoa;Arcellinida; Hyalospheniidae)

, Kosakyan, Anush, Mulot, Matthieu, Mitchell, Edward, Lara, Enrique

Environmental DNA surveys are used for screening eukaryotic diversity. However, it is unclear how quantitative this approach is and to what extent results from environmental DNA studies can be used for ecological studies requiring quantitative data. Mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase (COI) is used for species-level taxonomic studies of testate amoebae and should allow assessing the community composition from environmental samples, thus bypassing biases due to morphological identification. We tested this using a COI clone library approach and focusing on the Nebela collaris complex. Comparisons with direct microscopy counts showed that the COI clone library diversity data matched the morphologically identified taxa, and that community com-position estimates using the two approaches were similar. However, this correlation was improved when microscopy counts were corrected for biovolume. Higher correlation with biovolume-corrected community data suggests that COI clone library data matches the ratio of mitochondria and that within closely-related taxa the density of mitochondria per unit biovolume is approximately constant. Further developments of this metabarcoding approach including quantifying the mitochondrial density among closely-related taxa, experiments on other taxonomic groups and using high throughput sequencing should make if possible to quantitatively estimate community composition of different groups, which would be invaluable for microbial food webs studies.

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Using DNA-barcoding for sorting out protest species complexes:: A case study of the Nebela tincta–collaris–bohemica group (Amoebozoa; Arcellinida, Hyalospheniidae)

, Kosakyan, Anush, Gomaa, Fatma, Mitchell, Edward, Heger, Thierry J., Lara, Enrique

Species identification by means of morphology is often problematic in protists. Nebela tincta–collaris–bohemica (Arcellinida) is a species complex of small to medium-sized (ca.100 μm) testate amoebae common in peat bogs and forest soils. The taxonomic validity of characters used to define species within this group is debated and causes confusion in studies of biogeography, and applications in palaeoecology.
We examined the relationship between morphological and genetic diversity within this species complex by combined analyses of light microscopy imaging and Cytochrome Oxidase Subunit 1(COI) sequences obtained from the same individual amoeba cells. Our goals were (1) to clarify the taxonomy and the phylogenetic relationships within this group, and (2) to evaluate if individual genotypes corresponded to specific morphotypes and the extent of phenotypic plasticity.
We show here that small variations in test morphology that have been often overlooked by traditional taxonomy correspond to distinct haplotypes. We therefore revise the taxonomy of the group. We redefine Nebela tincta (Leidy) Kosakyan et Lara and N. collaris (Ehrenberg 1848) Kosakyan et Gomaa, change N. tincta var. rotunda Penard to N. rotunda (Penard 1890), describe three new species: N. guttata n. sp. Kosakyan et Lara, N. pechorensis n. sp. Kosakyan et Mitchell, and N. aliciae n. sp. Mitchell et Lara.

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Using DNA-barcoding for sorting out protist species complexes: A case study of the Nebela tincta-collaris-bohemica group (Amoebozoa; Arcellinida, Hyalospheniidae)

2013, Kosakyan, Anush, Gomaa, Fatma, Mitchell, Edward, Heger, Thierry J., Lara, Enrique

Species identification by means of morphology is often problematic in protists. Nebela tincta-collaris-bohemica (Arcellinida) is a species complex of small to medium-sized (ca. 100 mu m) testate amoebae common in peat bogs and forest soils. The taxonomic validity of characters used to define species within this group is debated and causes confusion in studies of biogeography, and applications in palaeoecology. We examined the relationship between morphological and genetic diversity within this species complex by combined analyses of light microscopy imaging and Cytochrome Oxidase Subunit 1(COI) sequences obtained from the same individual amoeba cells. Our goals were (1) to clarify the taxonomy and the phylogenetic relationships within this group, and (2) to evaluate if individual genotypes corresponded to specific morphotypes and the extent of phenotypic plasticity. We show here that small variations in test morphology that have been often overlooked by traditional taxonomy correspond to distinct haplotypes. We therefore revise the taxonomy of the group. We redefine Nebela tincta (Leidy) Kosakyan et Lara and N. collaris (Ehrenberg 1848) Kosakyan et Gomaa, change N. tincta var. rotunda Penard to N. rotunda (Penard 1890), describe three new species: N. guttata n. sp. Kosakyan et Lara, N. pechorensis n. sp. Kosakyan et Mitchell, and N. aliciae n. sp. Mitchell et Lara. (C) 2012 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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One Alga to Rule them All: Unrelated Mixotrophic Testate Amoebae (Amoebozoa, Rhizaria and Stramenopiles) Share the Same Symbiont (Trebouxiophyceae)

, Gomaa, Fatma, Kosakyan, Anush, Heger, Thierry J, Corsaro, Daniele, Mitchell, Edward, Lara, Enrique

Endosymbiosis is a central and much studied process in the evolution of eukaryotes. While plastid evolution in eukaryotic algae has been extensively studied, much less is known about the evolution of mixotrophy in amoeboid protists, which has been found in three of the five super groups of Eukaryotes. We identified the green endosymbionts in four obligate mixotrophic testate amoeba species belonging to three major eukaryotic clades, Hyalosphenia papilio and Heleopera sphagni (Amoebozoa: Arcellinida), Placocista spinosa (Rhizaria: Euglyphida), and Archerella flavum (Stramenopiles: Labyrinthulomycetes) based on rbcL (ribulose-1,5-diphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase large subunit) gene sequences. We further investigated whether there were different phylotypes of algal endosymbionts within single H. papilio cells and the degree of host-symbiont specificity by amplifying two genes: COI (mitochondrial cytochrome oxydase subunit 1) from the testate amoeba host, and rbcL from the endosymbiont. Results show that all studied endosymbionts belong to genus Chlorella sensu stricto, closely related to Paramecium bursaria Chlorella symbionts, some lichen symbionts and also several free-living algae. Most rbcL gene sequences derived from symbionts from all testate amoeba species were almost identical (at most 3 silent nucleotides difference out of 780 bp) and were assigned to a new Trebouxiophyceae taxon we named TACS (Testate Amoeba Chlorella Symbionts). This “one alga fits all mixotrophic testate amoeba” pattern suggests that photosynthetic symbionts have pre-adaptations to endosymbiosis and colonise diverse hosts from a free-living stage.

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En garde! Redefinition of Nebela militaris (Arcellinida, Hyalospheniidae) and erection of Alabasta gen. nov.

, Duckert, Clément, Blandenier, Quentin, Kupferschmid, Fanny A. L, Kosakyan, Anush, Mitchell, Edward, Lara, Enrique, Singer, David

Molecular data have considerably contributed to building the taxonomy of protists. Recently, the systematics of Hyalospheniidae (Amoebozoa; Tubulinea; Arcellinida) has been widely revised, with implications extending to ecological, biogeographical and evolutionary investigations. Certain taxa, however, still have an uncertain phylogenetic position, including the common and conspicuous species Nebela militaris. A phylogenetic reconstruction of the Hyalospheniidae using partial sequences of the mitochondrial Cytochrome Oxidase Subunit 1 (COI) gene shows that N. militaris does not belong to genus Nebela, but should be placed in its own genus. The morphological singularities (strongly curved pseudostome and a marked notch in lateral view) and phylogenetic placement of our isolates motivated the creation of a new genus: Alabasta gen. nov. Based on their morphology, we include in this genus Nebela kivuense and Nebela longicollis. We discuss the position of genus Alabasta within Hyalospheniidae, and the species that could integrate this new genus based on their morphological characteristics.

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COI Barcoding of Nebelid Testate Amoebae (Amoebozoa: Arcellinida): Extensive Cryptic Diversity and Redefinition of the Hyalospheniidae Schultze

2012, Kosakyan, Anush, Heger, Thierry J., Leander, Brian S., Todorov, Milcho, Mitchell, Edward, Lara, Enrique

We used Cytochrome Oxidase Subunit 1 (COI) to assess the phylogenetic relationships and taxonomy of Nebela sensu stricto and similar taxa (Nebela group, Arcellinida) in order to clarify the taxonomic validity of morphological characters. The COI data not only successfully separated all studied morphospecies but also revealed the existence of several potential cryptic species. The taxonomic implications of the results are: (1) Genus Nebela is paraphyletic and will need to be split into at least two monophyletic assemblages when taxon sampling is further expanded. (2) Genus Quadrulella, one of the few arcellinid genera building its shell from self-secreted siliceous elements, and the mixotrophic Hyalosphenia papilio branch within the Nebela group in agreement with the general morphology of their shell and the presence of an organic rim around the aperture (synapomorphy for Hyalospheniidae). We thus synonymise Hyalospheniidae and Nebelidae. Hyalospheniidae takes precedence and now includes Hyalosphenia, Quadrulella (previously in the Lesquereusiidae) and all Nebelidae with the exception of Argynnia and Physochila. Leptochlamys is Arcellinida incertae sedis. We describe a new genus Padaungiella Lara et Todorov and a new species Nebela meisterfeldi n. sp. Heger et Mitchell and revise the taxonomic position (and rank) of several taxa. These results show that the traditional morphology-based taxonomy underestimates the diversity within the Nebela group, and that phylogenetic relationships are best inferred from shell shape rather than from the material used to build the shell.

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Eight species in the Nebela collaris complex: Nebela gimlii (Arcellinida,Hyalospheniidae), a new species described from a Swiss raised bog

, Singer, David, Kosakyan, Anush, Pillonel, Amandine, Mitchell, Edward, Lara, Enrique

We describe here a new species of sphagnicolous testate amoeba found abundantly in the forested part of the Le Cachot peatland (Jura Mountains, Neuchâtel, Switzerland) based on microscopical observations (LM, SEM). The new species, called Nebela gimlii was placed in a phylogenetic tree based on mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase sequences (COI), and branched robustly within the N. collaris complex next to the morphologically similar N. guttata and N. tincta. It is however genetically clearly distinct from these two species, and differs morphologically from them by its smaller size and stouter shape of the shell. This new species completes the phylogeny of the Nebela collaris species complex, with now eight species described, mostly from peatlands and acidic forest litter, and further demonstrates the existence of an unknown diversity within testate amoebae. Improving the taxonomy of testate amoebae in peatlands and clarifying the ecology of newly discovered species should make these organisms even more valuable as bioindicator and for palaeoecological reconstruction.

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Dispersal limitations and historical factors determine the biogeography of specialized terrestrial protists

, Singer, David, Mitchell, Edward, Payne, Richard J, Blandenier, Quentin, Duckert, Clément, Fernández, Leonardo D, Fournier, Bertrand, Hernández, Cristián E, Granath, Gustaf, Rydin, Håkan, Bragazza, Luca, Koronatova, Natalia G, Goia, Irina, Harris, Lorna I, Kajukało, Katarzyna, Kosakyan, Anush, Lamentowicz, Mariusz, Kosykh, Natalia P, Vellak, Kai, Lara, Enrique

Recent studies show that soil eukaryotic diversity is immense and dominated by micro‐organisms. However, it is unclear to what extent the processes that shape the distribution of diversity in plants and animals also apply to micro‐organisms. Major diversification events in multicellular organisms have often been attributed to long‐term climatic and geological processes, but the impact of such processes on protist diversity has received much less attention as their distribution has often been believed to be largely cosmopolitan. Here, we quantified phylogeographical patterns in Hyalosphenia papilio, a large testate amoeba restricted to Holarctic Sphagnum‐dominated peatlands, to test if the current distribution of its genetic diversity can be explained by historical factors or by the current distribution of suitable habitats. Phylogenetic diversity was higher in Western North America, corresponding to the inferred geographical origin of the H. papilio complex, and was lower in Eurasia despite extensive suitable habitats. These results suggest that patterns of phylogenetic diversity and distribution can be explained by the history of Holarctic Sphagnum peatland range expansions and contractions in response to Quaternary glaciations that promoted cladogenetic range evolution, rather than the contemporary distribution of suitable habitats. Species distributions were positively correlated with climatic niche breadth, suggesting that climatic tolerance is key to dispersal ability in H. papilio. This implies that, at least for large and specialized terrestrial micro‐organisms, propagule dispersal is slow enough that historical processes may contribute to their diversification and phylogeographical patterns and may partly explain their very high overall diversity.