Sediment-dwelling protists are among the most abundant meiobenthic organisms, ubiquitous in all types of aquatic ecosystems. Yet, because their isolation and identification are difficult, their diversity remains largely unknown. In the present work, we applied molecular methods to examine the diversity of freshwater Foraminifera, a group of granuloreticulosan protists largely neglected until now. By using specific PCR primers, we detected the presence of Foraminifera in all sediment samples examined. Phylogenetic analysis of amplified SSU rDNA sequences revealed two distinct groups of freshwater foraminiferans. All obtained sequences branched within monothalamous (single-chambered), marine Foraminifera, suggesting a repeated colonization of freshwater environments. The results of our study challenge the traditional view of Foraminifera as essentially marine organisms, and provide a conceptual framework for charting the molecular diversity of freshwater granuloreticulosan protists.
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