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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project


Biological Sciences


Ciliates-Variation, Ciliates-Microbiology, Chilondonella, Protista, Biodiversity, Microorganisms-Variation, Coleps spp., Genetic diversity, Cryptic species, Chilondonella uncinata


Microbial eukaryotes are among the most dominant forms of life on Earth. They not only are incredibly abundant, but also quite diverse. Ciliates are unicellular organisms that are particularly distinguished by their morphological characteristics (i.e. complex ciliature). Although morphology helps us identify some species of microbes, including ciliates, it does not reflect the entire diversity that is present in our planet. Through this study, we aimed to explore the biodiversity of two ciliates (the morphogenus Coleps and morphospecies Chilodonella uncinata) using both morphology and molecules. Through the application of the morphospecies concept (characterization of organisms based on morphological features) we were able to identify these two ciliates from samples of various local freshwater sites. We performed different molecular techniques to obtain two molecular markers, the nuclear small subunit ribosomal DNA (nSSU-rDNA) and mitochondrial small subunit ribosomal DNA (mtSSU-rDNA). The phylogeny of these markers revealed that there were cryptic species present within C. uncinata that varied over time and space. Further indicating that more genetic diversity exists in nature




62 p. : col. ill. Honors project-Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 30-33)