Staurojoenina is a large and structurally complex genus of hypermastigont parabasalians found in the hindgut of lower termites. Although several species of Staurojoenina have been described worldwide, all Staurojoenina observed to date in different species of North American termites have been treated as the same species, S. assimilis. Here, we characterize Staurojoenina from the North American termite Neotermes jouteli using light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and phylogenetic analysis of small subunit ribosomal RNA, and compare it with S. assimilis from its type host, Incisitermes minor. The basic morphological characteristics of the N. jouteli symbiont, including its abundant bacterial epibionts, are similar as far as they may be compared with existing data from S. assimilis, although not consistently identical. In contrast, we find that they are extremely distantly related at the molecular level, sharing a pairwise similarity of SSU rRNA genes comparable to that seen between different genera or even families of other parabasalians. Based on their evolutionary distance and habitat in different termite genera, we consider the N. jouteli Staurojoenina to be distinct from S. assimilis, and describe a new species, Staurojoenina mulleri, in honor of the pioneering parabasalian researcher, Miklos Muller.
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