In his grand monograph of Radiolaria, Ernst Haeckel originally included Phaeodarea together with Acantharea and Polycystinea, all three taxa characterized by the presence of a central capsule and the possession of axopodia. Cytological and ultrastructural studies, however, questioned the monophyly of Radiolaria, suggesting an independent evolutionary origin of the three taxa, and the first molecular data on Acantharea and Polycystinea brought controversial results. To test further the monophyly of Radiolaria, we sequenced the complete small subunit ribosomal RNA gene of three phaeodarians and three polycystines. Our analyses reveal that phaeodarians clearly branch among the recently described phylum Cercozoa, separately from Acantharea and Polycystinea. This result enhances the morphological variability within the phylum Cercozoa, which already contains very heterogeneous groups of protists. Our study also confirms the common origin of Acantharea and Polycystinea, which form a sister-group to the Cercozoa, and allows a phylogenetic reinterpretation of the morphological features of the three radiolarian groups.
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