The All-Data-Based Evolutionary Hypothesis of Ciliated Protists with a Revised Classification of the Phylum Ciliophora (Eukaryota, Alveolata)
The phylum Ciliophora plays important roles in a wide range of biological studies. However, the evolutionary relationships of many groups remain unclear due to a lack of sufficient molecular data. In this study, molecular dataset was expanded with representatives from 55 orders and all major lineages. The main findings are: (1) 14 classes were recovered including one new class, Protocruziea n. cl.; (2) in addition to the two main branches, Postciliodesmatophora and Intramacronucleata, a third branch, the Mesodiniea, is identified as being basal to the other two subphyla; (3) the newly defined order Discocephalida is revealed to be a sister clade to the euplotids, strongly suggesting the separation of discocephalids from the hypotrichs; (4) the separation of mobilids from the peritrichs is not supported; (5) Loxocephalida is basal to the main scuticociliate assemblage, whereas the thigmotrichs are placed within the order Pleuronematida; (6) the monophyly of classes Phyllopharyngea, Karyorelictea, Armophorea, Prostomatea, Plagiopylea, Colpodea and Heterotrichea are confirmed; (7) ambiguous genera Askenasia, CyclotrichiumParaspathidium and Plagiocampa show close affiliation to the well known plagiopyleans; (8) validity of the subclass Rhynchostomatia is supported and (9) the systematic positions of Halteriida and Linconophoria remain unresolved and are thus regarded as incertae sedis within Spirotrichea.