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Research article2004Peer reviewed

The current status of the small subunit rRNA phylogeny of the coccidia (Sporozoa)

Morrison DA, Bornstein S, Thebo P, Wernery U, Kinne J, Mattsson JG


There is no current comprehensive assessment of the molecular phylogeny of the coccidia, as all recently published papers either deal with subsets of the taxa or sequence data, or provide non-robust analyses. Here, we present a comprehensive and consistent phylogenetic analysis of the available data for the small-subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequence, including a number of taxa not previously studied, based on a Bayesian tree-building analysis and the covariotide model of evolution. The assumptions of the analysis have been rigorously tested, and the benefits and limitations highlighted. Our results provide support for a number of prior conclusions, including the monophyly of the families Sarcocystidae (cyst-forming coccidia) and Eimeriidae (oocyst-forming coccidia), but with bird-host Isospora species in the Eimeriidae and mammal-host species in the Sarcocystidae. However, it is clear that a number of previously reported relationships are dependent on the evolutionary model chosen, such as the placements of Goussia janae, Lankesterella minimia and Caryospora bigenetica. Our results also confirm the monophyly of the subfamilies Toxoplasmatinae and Sarcocystinae, but only some of the previously reported groups within these subfamilies are supported by our analysis. Similarly, only some of the previously reported groups within the Eimeriidae are supported by our analysis, and the genus Eimeria is clearly paraphyletic. There are unambiguous patterns of host-parasite relationship within the coccidia, as most of the well-supported groups have a consistent and restricted range of hosts, with the exception of the Toxoplasmatinae. Furthermore, the previously reported groups for which we found no support all have a diverse range of unrelated hosts, confirming that these are unlikely to be natural groups. The most interesting unaddressed questions may relate to Isospora, which has the fewest available sequences and host-parasite relationships apparently not as straightforward as elsewhere within the suborder. (C) 2003 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

Published in

International Journal for Parasitology
2004, Volume: 34, number: 4, pages: 501-514

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