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Published in: Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, Volume 59, Issue 2


Persistent difficulties in resolving clear lineages in diverging populations of prokaryotes or unicellular eukaryotes (protistan polyphyletic groups) are challenging the classical species concept. Although multiple integrated approaches would render holistic taxonomies, most phylogenetic studies are still based on single-gene or morphological traits. Such methodologies conceal natural lineages, which are considered “cryptic.” The concept of species is considered artificial and inadequate to define natural populations. Social organisms display differential behaviors toward kin than to nonrelated individuals. In “social” microbes, kin discrimination has been used to help resolve crypticity. Aggregative behavior could be explored in a nonsocial protist to define phylogenetic varieties that are considered “cryptic.” Two Entamoeba invadens strains, IP-1 and VK-1:NS are considered close populations of the same “species.” This study demonstrates that IP-1 and VK-1:NS trophozoites aggregate only with alike members and discriminate members of different strains based on behavioral and chemical signals. Combined morphological, behavioral/chemical, and ecological studies could improve Archamoebae phylogenies and define cryptic varieties. Evolutionary processes in which selection acted continuously and cumulatively on ancestors of Entamoeba populations gave rise to chemical and behavioral signals that allowed individuals to discriminate nonpopulation members and, gradually, to the emergence of new lineages; alternative views that claim a “Designer” or “Creator” as responsible for protistan diversity are unfounded.

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