DNA evidence for global dispersal and probable endemicity of protozoa

BMC Evolutionary Biology
David BassThomas Cavalier-Smith


It is much debated whether microbes are easily dispersed globally or whether they, like many macro-organisms, have historical biogeographies. The ubiquitous dispersal hypothesis states that microbes are so numerous and so easily dispersed worldwide that all should be globally distributed and found wherever growing conditions suit them. This has been broadly upheld for protists (microbial eukaryotes) by most morphological and some molecular analyses. However, morphology and most previously used evolutionary markers evolve too slowly to test this important hypothesis adequately. Here we use a fast-evolving marker (ITS1 rDNA) to map global diversity and distribution of three different clades of cercomonad Protozoa (Eocercomonas and Paracercomonas: phylum Cercozoa) by sequencing multiple environmental gene libraries constructed from 47-80 globally-dispersed samples per group. Even with this enhanced resolution, identical ITS sequences (ITS-types) were retrieved from widely separated sites and on all continents for several genotypes, implying relatively rapid global dispersal. Some identical ITS-types were even recovered from both marine and non-marine samples, habitats that generally harbour significantly different protist communit...Continue Reading


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light microscopy
electron microscopy

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