Life Cycle, Morphology, Ontogenesis, and Phylogeny of Bromeliothrix metopoides nov. gen., nov. spec., a Peculiar Ciliate (Protista, Colpodea) from Tank Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae)

Wilhelm Foissner

Abstrakt

Bromeliothrix metopoides was discovered in tank bromeliads from Central and South America. Pure cultures could be established in various media stimulating growth of its food, i.e. bacteria and heterotrophic flagellates of the genus Polytomella. The new ciliate was investigated in the light- and scanning electron microscope, with various silver impregnation techniques, and with molecular methods, using the small-subunit rDNA. The morphology and its changes during the life cycle are documented by 167 figures and a detailed morphometry. Bromeliothrix metopoides is about 27–55 × 22–36 μm in size and has a complex life cycle with Metopus-shaped, bacteriophagous theronts and trophonts (microstomes) and obovate, flagellate-feeding macrostomes having a large, triangular oral apparatus. The thin-walled
resting cysts of the theronts and trophonts are uniquely ellipsoidal, while the thick-walled cyst of the macrostome morph is globular. Reproduction
occurs in freely motile condition either by binary fission or polytomy, producing a unique, motile “division chain” composed
of four globular offspring, of which the central ones are connected by a curious, plug-like holdfast. Division is associated with a complete
reorganization of the parental oral and somatic infraciliature. Stomatogenesis is merotelokinetal as in other members of the order Colpodida.
The right polykinetid is generated by the rightmost postoral kinety, while the left polykinetid is produced by the two left postoral kineties
and five left side kineties. The division in freely motile condition resembles the Exocolpodidae Foissner et al., 2002, to which Bromeliothrix
is tentatively assigned, differing from Exocolpoda mainly by the formation of a macrostome morph and a division chain. Bromeliothrix has
a ciliary and silverline pattern typical for members of the family Colpodidae. This matches the molecular classification which, however,
hardly reflects the outstanding division and life cycle, suggesting some decoupling of morphological and molecular evolution. The specific
morphological and ontogenetic traits of Bromeliothrix are interpreted as adaptations to the highly competitive habitat, favouring r-selected
life strategies. Bromeliothrix metopoides is widespread in various tank bromeliads and can be easily cultivated in a wide variety of limnetic
and terrestrial media. Thus, it remains obscure why this ciliate is restricted to tank bromeliads, i.e. did not occur in about 2,000 soil and
freshwater samples investigated globally, including some 100 samples from Central and South America.

Słowa kluczowe: Central America, division chain, life cycle, macrostome formation, merotelokinetal stomatogenesis, polytomic division, protist endemism, South America

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