Ellobiopsids are multinucleate protist parasites of aquatic crustaceans that possess a nutrient absorbing ‘root’ inside the host and reproductive structures that protrude through the carapace. Ellobiopsids have variously been affiliated with fungi, ‘colorless algae’, and dinoflagellates, although no morphological character has been identified that definitively allies them with any particular eukaryotic lineage. The arrangement of the trailing and circumferential flagella of the rarely observed bi-flagellated ‘zoospore’ is reminiscent of dinoflagellate flagellation, but a well-organized ‘dinokaryotic nucleus' has never been observed. Using small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequences from two species of Thalassomyces, phylogenetic analyses robustly place these ellobiopsid species among the alveolates (ciliates, apicomplexans, dinoflagellates and relatives) though without a clear affiliation to any established alveolate lineage. Our trees demonstrate that Thalassomyces fall within a dinoflagellate apicomplexa Perkinsidae “marine alveolate group 1” clade, clustering most closely with dinoflagellates. However, the poor statistical support for branches within this region indicates that additional data will be needed to resolve relationships among these taxa.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2