Multivariate morphometric analyses of the predatory ciliate genus Semispathidium (Ciliophora: Litostomatea), with description of S. longiarmatum nov. spec

Eur J Protistol. 2014 Aug;50(4):329-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ejop.2014.03.003. Epub 2014 Mar 18.


We studied morphometrical variation, species boundaries, and importance of morphometric features for a reliable separation of five African Semispathidium taxa. Altogether, 20 features traditionally used in alpha-taxonomy of the predatory genus Semispathidium were measured or scored on 85 protargol-impregnated interphase specimens, and were analyzed using hierarchical clustering as well as principal component and canonical discriminant analyses. This multivariate approach confirmed that a population found in Botswanan floodplain soil represents a distinct taxon. The new species is described here as S. longiarmatum, using live observation, protargol impregnation, and scanning electron microscopy. Semispathidium longiarmatum strongly resembles S. armatum and S. breviarmatum but it is clearly distinguished from these species by the extrusome pattern. The reliability of S. longiarmatum is also strengthened, according to the canonical discriminant analysis, by several quantitative features, viz., the number of ciliary rows, the length:width ratio of the macronucleus, and the number of dikinetids in brush row 1. Moreover, the present study documents the distinctness of all African Semispathidium species which can be separated by a combination of both qualitative and quantitative (morphometric) features. Consequently, Semispathidium species do not form a continuous complex but fairly discrete clusters in the phenotypic space.

Keywords: Africa; Extrusomes; Numerical taxonomy; Resting cyst; Species discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ciliophora / classification*
  • Ciliophora / ultrastructure*
  • Macronucleus / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Phylogeny
  • Soil / parasitology
  • Species Specificity


  • Soil