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Morphology, Molecular Systematics, and Phylogenetics of a Novel Ciliate, Scindostoma hanania (Alveolata: Ciliophora) Open Access

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Ciliates (phylum Ciliophora) are the largest group of single-celled organisms, some of the most complex cells known, and are vital to nearly every aquatic ecosystem. Historical understanding of the members of Cilophora has changed with the development of new methods and can be explained in five "ages." Today's age, the "Age of Refinement," is one in which molecular data have been infused with morphological data in order to reshape the phylum. The purpose of this study is to fully describe a novel ciliate, Scindostoma hanania. This study describes the morphology and ultrastructure of this ciliate, elucidates its phylogenetic position through molecular data, and ultimately verifies this phylogeny in a total evidence framework. The findings of this study require taxonomic revision within the order Prorodontida, and the thesis concludes with a formal description of a revived family, Cryptocaryonidae, to which Scindostoma hanania belongs. These findings underscore the poor understanding of the phylum Ciliophora and verify the need for "refinement." Works such as this one ameliorate the relatively small amount of data available, and are another piece in the puzzle of ciliate evolution. This thesis provides the groundwork for future redescription of the phylum.Any names or nomenclatural acts within this thesis are disclaimed for nomenclatural purposes, and the thesis is not issued for any purposes of zoological nomenclature.

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