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Four common earthworm species, the anecic Lumbricus terrestris, the endogeic Octolasion tyrteum as well as the epigeic Eisenia fetida and Dendrobaena veneta, were examined for the presence of the microbial gut symbiont Plagiotoma lumbrici. The evolutionary origin of this endobiotic microbe was reconstructed, using the 18S rRNA gene, the ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 region, and the first two domains of the 28S rRNA gene. Plagiotoma lumbrici was exclusively detected in the anecic Lumbricus terrestris. Multigene analyses and the ITS2 secondary structure robustly determined the phylogenetic home of Plagiotoma lumbrici populations within the oxytrichid Dorsomarginalia (Spirotrichea: Hypotrichia) as a sister taxon of the free-living Hemiurosomoida longa. This indicates that earthworms obtained their gut endosymbiont by ingesting soil/leaf litter containing oxytrichine ciliates that became adapted to the intestinal tract of earthworms. Interestingly, according to the literature data, Plagiotoma lumbrici was detected in multiple anecic and some epigeic but never in endogeic earthworms. These observations suggest that Plagiotoma lumbrici might be adapted to certain gut conditions and the lifestyle of anecic Lumbricidae, such as Lumbricus, Aporrectodea, and Scherotheca, as well as of some co-occurring epigeic Lumbricus species.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Journal of eukaryotic microbiology
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