The phylogenetic diversity of parabasalian flagellates was examined based on the sequences of small subunit ribosomal RNA genes amplified directly from the mixed population of flagellates in the hindgut of lower termites. In total, 33 representative sequences of parabasalids were recovered from eight termite species. Fluorescent-labeled oligonucleotide probes specific for certain sequences were designed and used for the in situ identification of parabasalian species by whole-cell hybridization. The hypermastigotes, Pseudotrichonympha grassii, Spirotrichonympha leidyi, and Holomastigotoides mirabile in the hindgut of Coptotermes formosanus, and Spirotrichonympha sp. and Trichonympha spp. in Hodotermopsis sjoestedti were identified. In the phylogenetic tree constructed, the sequences from the termites were dispersed within the groups of known members of parabasalids, reflecting the presence of diverse parabasalids in the hindgut of termites. There were three paraphyletic lineages of hypermastigotes represented by Pseudotrichonympha, Trichonympha, and Spirotrichonympha, in agreement with the morphology-based taxonomic groups. The analysis of the tree-root suggested that the Pseudotrichonympha group is the most probable ancient lineage of parabasalids and that the Trichonympha group is the secondly deep-branching lineage. The Spirotrichonympha group and the Trichomonadida may have emerged later.
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