An unusually high divergence was observed in the ribosomal RNA genes of a free-living population of foraminifera belonging to the genus Ammonia. The sequences of a large-subunit (LSU) rDNA expansion segment D1 and flanking regions were obtained from 20 specimens named Ammonia sp. 1 and Ammonia sp. 2. The sequence divergence between the two species averages 14%. Within each species it ranges from 0.2% to 7.1% in Ammonia sp. 1 and from 0.7% to 2.3% in Ammonia sp. 2. We did not find two specimens having identical sequences. Moreover, in opposition to the generally accepted view, rDNA sequence variations were also found within a single individual. The variations among several rDNA copies in a single specimen of Ammonia may reach up to 4.9%. Most of the observed variations result from multiplication of CA or TA serial repeats occurring in two particularly variable regions. For single base changes, C-T transitions are most frequently observed. We discuss the evolution of expansion segments and their use for phylogenetic studies.
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