Planktic foraminiferal molecular evolution and their polyphyletic origins from benthic taxa

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Phylogenetic analyses based on partial sequences of the small subunit (SSU) ribosomal (r) RNA gene have shown that the planktic and benthic foraminifera form a distinct monophyletic group within the eukaryotes. In order to determine the evolutionary relationships between benthic and planktic foraminifers, representatives of spinose and non-spinose planktic genera have been placed within a molecular SSU rDNA phylogeny containing sequences of the benthic suborders available to date. Our phylogenetic analysis shows that the planktic foraminifers are polyphyletic in origin, not evolving solely from a single `globigerinid-like' lineage in the Mid-Jurassic, but derived from at least two ancestral benthic lines, The benthic ancestor of Neogloboquadrina dutertrei may have entered the plankton later than the Mid-Jurassic, and further investigation of related extant species should provide an indication of the timing of this event. The evolutionary origin of the non-spinose species Globorotalia menardii remains unclear. The divergences of the planktic spinose species generally support recent phylogenies based on the fossil record, which infer a radiation from a globigerinid common ancestor in the Mid- to Late Oligocene. The branching pattern indicates that there are possibly four distinct groups within the main spinose clade, with large evolutionary distances being observed between them. Globigerinoides conglobatus clusters strongly with Globigerinoides ruber and are divergent from Globigerinella siphonifera, Orbulina universa and Globigerinoides sacculifer. Conserved regions of the SSU rRNA gene show sufficient variation to discriminate foraminifers at the species level, Large genetic differences have been observed between the pink and white forms of Gs, tuber and between Ge. siphonifera Type I and II. The two types of Ge. siphonifera cannot be discriminated by traditional palaeontological methods, which has considerable implications for tracing fossil lineages and for the estimation of molecular evolutionary rates based upon the fossil record. The conserved regions show a high degree of sequence identity within a species, providing signature sequences for species identification. The variable regions of the gene may prove informative for population level studies in some species although complete sequence identity was observed in G. sacculifer and O. universa between specimens collected from the Caribbean and Western Pacific.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-266
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Micropaleontology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1997


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