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Title: Taxonomy, biodiversity, and ecology of Apusozoa (Protozoa)
Author: Glücksman, Edvard
ISNI:       0000 0004 2723 7569
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Apusozoa (Protozoa) is a phylum of heterotrophic gliding zooflagellates of unknown taxonomic affiliation, commonly observed in environmental samples. Almost nothing was previously known about the diversity and ecology of apusozoan species though, as bacterivores, they are probably important functional constituents within microbial assemblages. We explored apusozoan morphological and genetic diversity, ecology, and related methodological questions. By culturing environmental material from a range of habitats, we isolated and maintained monocultures of both previously described apusozoan orders, Apusomonadida (apusomonads) and Planomonadida (planomonads). For planomonads, we present a revised taxonomy based on morphology, ultrastructure, and 18S rDNA genetic differences. We describe nine new species and new genera Nutomonas and Fabomonas, and demonstrate ITS2 rDNA secondary structure analysis for species delineation. During our culturing effort, we also isolated two genotypes of a previously unknown flagellate group, shown here to belong to a novel third apusozoan order, Mantamonadida. We designed molecular probes specific to all three orders and applied them to environmental DNA, detecting novel 18S and ITS1 rDNA lineages in a range of habitats. We mined publically available metagenomic and metatranscriptomic sequence databases using 18S rDNA of described species as seeds, identifying hundreds of sequences with affinities to all three orders. Phylogenies featuring newly retrieved lineages with previously described species suggest that direct sequencing of transcriptomic material is more effective than amplification-dependent methods at detecting rare cells in mixed microbial assemblages. Finally, to test potential future applications of our newly isolated strains, we ran microcosm experiments examining the effect of protozoan (Cercozoa) grazing on the structure of bacterial assemblages, demonstrating that closely related and morphologically similar species can have different impacts on their prey base. Taken together, by combining traditional culturing and modern molecular methods, this thesis drastically improves our understanding of apusozoan diversity and sets the scene for future work using next-generation sequencing and ecologically driven functional experiments.
Supervisor: Cavalier-Smith, Thomas Sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Protistology ; Protozoa ; Apusozoa ; Mantamonadida ; Apusomonadida ; Planomonadida ; Ancyromonadida ; 18S rRNA phylogeny