To evaluate higher-level affinities of Hepatozoon species within Apicomplexa, we sequenced the 18S rRNA gene from 2 parasites (Hepatozoon americanum and Hepatozoon canis) of dogs and 1 (Hepatozoon catesbianae) of bullfrogs. Sequences from other apicomplexans among the Sarcocystiidae, Eimeriidae, Theileriidae, Plasmodiidae, Cryptosporiidae, and Babesiidae, a Perkinsus species and 2 dinoflagellates were obtained from GenBank. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that Plasmodium, Cryptosporidium, and Hepatozoon form a monophyletic group distinct from representatives of other apicomplexan families. Although equivocal, our analysis indicated that Plasmodium and Cryptosporidium are sister taxa and that Hepatozoon is basal to them. To evaluate phylogenetic affinities among H. americanum, H. canis, and other species of Hepatozoon, we examined 18 morphologic and life-cycle features of 13 species currently assigned to Hepatozoon. This analysis indicates paraphyly of Hepatozoon (as currently arranged) because Hepatozoon lygosomarum was found most closely related to Hemolivia mauritanicum. These results, combined with results of previous studies, support elevating Hepatozoon to familial level (Hepatozoidae) as originally suggested by Wenyon in 1926. Both DNA sequence data and morphologic and life-cycle characters support a sister-group relationship between H. americanum and H. canis.
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