Various echinoderms are colonized by species from several classes of the Phylum Ciliophora, indicating that the echinoderm “habitat” has been invaded independently on numerous occasions throughout evolutionary history. Two “echinoderm” ciliates whose phylogenetic positions have been problematic are Licnophora macfarlandi Stevens, 1901 and Schizocaryum dogieli Poljansky and Golikova, 1957. Licnophora macfarlandi is an endosymbiont of the respiratory trees of holothuroids, and S. dogieli is found in the esophagus of echinoids. A third species, Lechriopyla mystax Lynch, 1930, is a plagiopylid ciliate found in the intestine of echinoids. Host echinoderms were collected near the Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island, WA. Specimens of S. dogieli and L. mystax were obtained from the esophagus and intestine, respectively, of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus pallidus. Specimens of L. macfarlandi were collected from the fluid obtained from the respiratory trees of Parastichopus californicus. Using small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSrRNA) sequences of these three ciliates and a global alignment of SSrRNA sequences of other ciliates, we established the following. 1) Licnophora is a spirotrich ciliate, clearly related to the hypotrichs and stichotrichs; this is corroborated by its possession of macronuclear replication bands. 2) Lechriopyla is the sister genus to Plagiopyla and is a member of the Class Plagiopylea, which was predicted based on its cytology. 3) Schizocaryum clusters in the Class Oligohymenophorea and is most closely related to the scuticociliates; there are currently no morphological features known to relate Schizocaryum to the scuticociliates.
The Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology
Vol. 49 • No. 6
Vol. 49 • No. 6