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Is the valid species Synchaeta monopus Plate, 1889 (Rotifera: Monogononta) a product of preparation artefacts?
- Wilke, Tanja, Ahlrichs, Wilko H., Bininda-Emonds, Olaf R.P.
- Journal of natural history 2019 v.53 no.7-8 pp. 413-423
- Monogononta, animal anatomy, animal taxonomy, deformation, formaldehyde
- The morphology of soft-bodied rotifers, including those of Synchaeta spp, can be strongly affected by preparation artefacts including contraction and deformation. The long-standing, valid species Synchaeta monopus is known exclusively from ethanol- or formaldehyde-preserved material and no live specimens of it have ever been described. Although this alone is cause for concern, we could also reproduce unique characteristics diagnostic for this species (e.g. the swollen body and the rudimental foot) by subjecting specimens of Synchaeta pectinata to the preservation conditions under which it was first described. This proxy experiment and comparisons to other Synchaeta species indicate that literature occurrences of S. monopus likely represent preserved and deformed specimens of Synchaeta cecilia or other marine species of Synchaeta, thereby highlighting the importance of thorough morphological investigations of the habitus using live specimens and of features that are unaffected by preservation (e.g. the trophi). We therefore recommend that S. monopus be listed as a species inquirenda until topotypes are examined. Furthermore, in ecological studies including rotifers, where the examination of preserved material is often unavoidable, we stress that light-microscopical images of the habitus and trophi of the specimens minimally be included to facilitate independent verification of the species assignments.