Phylogenetic Relationships and Morphological Character Evolution of Photosynthetic Euglenids (Excavata) Inferred from Taxon-rich Analyses of Five Genes
Photosynthetic euglenids acquired chloroplasts by secondary endosymbiosis, which resulted in changes to their mode of nutrition and affected the evolution of their morphological characters. Mapping morphological characters onto a reliable molecular tree could elucidate major trends of those changes. We analyzed nucleotide sequence data from regions of three nuclear-encoded genes (nSSU, nLSU, hsp90), one chloroplast-encoded gene (cpSSU) and one nuclear-encoded chloroplast gene (psbO) to estimate phylogenetic relationships among 59 photosynthetic euglenid species. Our results were consistent with previous works; most genera were monophyletic, except for the polyphyletic genus Euglena, and the paraphyletic genus Phacus. We also analyzed character evolution in photosynthetic euglenids using our phylogenetic tree and eight morphological traits commonly used for generic and species diagnoses, including: characters corresponding to well-defined clades, apomorphies like presence of lorica and mucilaginous stalks, and homoplastic characters like rigid cells and presence of large paramylon grains. This research indicated that pyrenoids were lost twice during the evolution of phototrophic euglenids, and that mucocysts, which only occur in the genus Euglena, evolved independently at least twice. In contrast, the evolution of cell shape and chloroplast morphology was difficult to elucidate, and could not be unambiguously reconstructed in our analyses.