Many aseptate gregarines from marine invertebrate hosts are thought to have retained several plesiomorphic characteristics and are instrumental in understanding the early evolution of intracellular parasitism in apicomplexans and the phylogenetic position of cryptosporidians. We sequenced the small-subunit (SSU) ribosomal RNA genes from 2 archigregarines, Selenidium terebellae and Selenidium vivax, and 2 morphotypes of the marine eugregarine Lecudina polymorpha. We also used scanning electron microscopy to investigate the surface morphology of trophozoites from Lecudina tuzetae, Monocystis agilis, the 2 species of Selenidium, and the 2 morphotypes of L. polymorpha. The SSU ribosomal DNA sequences from S. vivax and L. polymorpha had long branch lengths characteristic of other gregarine sequences. However, the sequence from S. terebellae was not exceptionally divergent and consistently emerged as 1 of the earliest ‘true’ gregarines in phylogenetic analyses. Statistical support for the sister relationship between Cryptosporidium spp. and gregarines was significantly bolstered in analyses including the sequence from S. terebellae but excluding the longest branches in the alignment. Eugregarines formed a monophyletic group with the neogregarine Ophryocystis, suggesting that trophozoites with elaborate cortex folds and gliding motility evolved only once. The trophozoites from the 2 species of Selenidium shared novel transverse striations but differed from one another in overall cell morphologies and writhing behavior.
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