Fossil Foraminifera appear in the Early Cambrian, at about the same time as the first skeletonized metazoans. However, due to the inadequate preservation of early unilocular (single-chambered) foraminiferal tests and difficulties in their identification, the evolution of early foraminifers is poorly understood. By using molecular data from a wide range of extant naked and testate unilocular species, we demonstrate that a large radiation of nonfossilized unilocular Foraminifera preceded the diversification of multilocular lineages during the Carboniferous. Within this radiation, similar test morphologies and wall types developed several times independently. Our findings indicate that the early Foraminifera were an important component of Neoproterozoic protistan community, whose ecological complexity was probably much higher than has been generally accepted.
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