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Molecular phylogeny and evolution of phenotype in silica‐scaled chrysophyte genus Mallomonas

Čertnerová, Dora, Čertner, Martin, Škaloud, Pavel
Journal of phycology 2019 v.55 no.4 pp. 912-923
Mallomonas, ancestry, fossils, phenotype, phylogeny, protists, silica
The evolution of phenotypes is highly understudied in protists, due to the dearth of morphological characters, missing fossil record, and/or unresolved phylogeny in the majority of taxa. The chrysophyte genus Mallomonas (Stramenopiles) forms species‐specific silica scales with extraordinary diversity of their ornamentation. In this paper, we molecularly characterized three additional species to provide an updated phylogeny of 43 species, and combined this with evaluations of 24 morphological traits. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, we evaluated phylogenetic signal in traits, reconstructed the trait evolution, and compared the overall phylogenetic and morphological diversity. The majority of traits showed strong phylogenetic signal and mostly dynamic evolution. Phylogenetic relatedness was often reflected by the phenotypic similarity. Both V‐rib and dome are very conservative structures that are presumably involved in precise scale overlap and bristle attachment, respectively. Based on modern species, it seems the dome firstly appeared on apical and/or caudal scales, and only later emerged on body scales. Bristle was presumably present in the common ancestor and gradually elongated ever since. However, most other morphological traits readily changed during the evolution of Mallomonas.