Macrotrichomonas (Cristamonadea: Parabasalia) is an anaerobic, amitochondriate flagellate symbiont of termite hindguts. It is noteworthy for being large but not structurally complex compared with other large parabasalians, and for retaining a structure similar in appearance to the undulating membrane (UM) of small flagellates closely related to cristamonads, e.g. Tritrichomonas. Here, we have characterised the SSU rDNA from two species described as Macrotrichomonas: M. restis Kirby 1942 from Neotermes jouteli and M. lighti Connell 1932 from Paraneotermes simplicicornis. These species do not form a clade: M. lighti branches with previously characterised Macrotrichomonas sequences from Glyptotermes, while M. restis branches with the genus Metadevescovina. We examined the M. restis UM by light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy, and we find common characteristics with the proximal portion of the robust recurrent flagellum of devescovinids. Altogether, we show the genus Macrotrichomonas to be polyphyletic and propose transferring M. restis to a new genus, Macrotrichomonoides. We also hypothesise that the macrotrichomonad body plan represents the ancestral state of cristamonads, from which other major forms evolved.
- undulating membrane
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