Phylogenetic relationships between the Acantharea and the Polycystinea: a molecular perspective on Haeckel's Radiolaria. Academic Article uri icon


  • Polycystine radiolaria are among few protistan groups that possess a comprehensive fossil record available for study by micropaleontologists. The Polycystinea and the Acantharea, whose skeletons do not become fossilized, were once members of the class "Radiolaria" ("Radiolaria" sensu lato: Polycystinea, Phaeodarea, and Acantharea) originally proposed by Haeckel but are now included in the superclass Actinopoda. Phylogenetic relationships within this superclass remain largely enigmatic. We investigated the evolutionary relationship of the Acantharea and the Polycystinea to other protists using phylogenetic analyses of 16S-like ribosomal RNA (rRNA) coding regions. We circumvented the need to culture these organisms by collecting and maintaining reproductive stages that contain many copies of their genomic DNA. This strategy facilitated extraction of genomic DNA and its purification from symbiont and prey DNA. Phylogenetic trees inferred from comparisons of 16S-like coding regions do not support a shared history between the Acantharea and the Polycystinea. However, the monophyly of the Acantharea and the separate monophyly of the Polycystinea (Spumellarida) are well supported by our molecular-based trees. The acantharian lineage branches among crown organisms whereas the polycystine lineage diverges before the radiation of the crown groups. We conclude that the Actinopoda does not represent a monophyletic evolutionary assemblage and recommend that this taxonomic designation be discarded.

publication date

  • October 14, 1997