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Evolutionary relationships within Amoebozoa have been the subject of controversy for two reasons: 1) paucity of morphological characters in traditional surveys and 2) haphazard taxonomic sampling in modern molecular reconstructions. These along with other factors have prevented the erection of a definitive system that resolves confidently both higher and lower-level relationships. Additionally, the recent recognition that many protosteloid amoebae are in fact scattered throughout the Amoebozoa suggests that phylogenetic reconstructions have been excluding an extensive and integral group of organisms. Here we provide a comprehensive phylogenetic reconstruction based on 139 taxa using molecular information from both SSU-rDNA and actin genes. We provide molecular data for 13 of those taxa, 12 of which had not been previously characterized. We explored the dataset extensively by generating 18 alternative reconstructions that assess the effect of missing data, long-branched taxa, unstable taxa, fast evolving sites and inclusion of environmental sequences. We compared reconstructions with each other as well as against previously published phylogenies. Our analyses show that many of the morphologically established lower-level relationships (defined here as relationships roughly equivalent to Order level or below) are congruent with molecular data. However, the data are insufficient to corroborate or reject the large majority of proposed higher-level relationships (above the Order-level), with the exception of Tubulinea, Archamoebae and Myxogastrea, which are consistently recovered. Moreover, contrary to previous expectations, the inclusion of available environmental sequences does not significantly improve the Amoebozoa reconstruction. This is probably because key amoebozoan taxa are not easily amplified by environmental sequencing methodology due to high rates of molecular evolution and regular occurrence of large indels and introns. Finally, in an effort to facilitate future sampling of key amoebozoan taxa, we provide a novel methodology for genome amplification and cDNA extraction from single or a few cells, a method that is culture-independent and allows both photodocumentation and extraction of multiple genes from natural samples.








© 2011 Lahr et al.


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