Achradina pulchra, a Unique Dinoflagellate (Amphilothales, Dinophyceae) with a Radiolarian-like Endoskeleton of Celestite (Strontium Sulfate)

Fernando Gómez,

Kostas Kiriakoulakis,

Enrique Lara

We examined the planktonic dinoflagellate Achradina pulchra by light and scanning electron microscopies from the South and North Atlantic oceans. The basket-like skeleton has been interpreted as a thick cell covering or pellicle of organic composition, or as a siliceous endoskeleton. The skeleton of Achradina is known only from fresh material, being absent in preserved samples, sediments or the fossil record. X-ray microanalysis revealed that the endoskeleton of Achradina is composed of celestite (strontium sulfate) with traces of barite (barium sulfate), two minerals that readily dissolve after cell death. To date, Acantharia and polycystine radiolarians (Retaria) were the only known organisms with a skeleton of this composition. We can now add a dinoflagellate to the list of such mineralized skeletons, which influence on the biogeochemical fluxes of strontium and barium in the oceans. Moreover, we provided the first molecular data for a skeleton-bearing dinoflagellate. Molecular phylogeny based on the SSU rRNA gene sequences revealed that Achradina and several environmental clones branched as an independent lineage within the short-branching dinokaryotic dinoflagellates. To date, seven clades of dinokaryotic dinoflagellates are known living as symbionts in the endoplasm of Acantharia and polycystine radiolarians. Because celestite built skeletons were unknown outside radiolarians, we suggested that the ancestors of Achradina acquired the genes implicated in the deposition of strontium and barium from radiolarian hosts though a horizontal gene transfer event between microbial eukaryotes.
Słowa kluczowe: Acantharea, Amphilothus, barite, celestite skeleton, Dinoflagellata, endosymbiosis, gene transfer, plankton symbiosis, Retaria

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