A novel marine hypotrichous ciliate, Sterkiella subtropica sp. nov., was recently isolated from a mangrove wetland in Hong Kong. Its morphology, morphogenesis and systematic position have been investigated. The novel species is diagnosed by combined features of morphology, ciliature and nuclear apparatus, while its ontogenetic events present a stable pattern: (i) the six streaks of the undulating membrane (UM) and cirral anlagen are segmented in a 1 : 3 : 3 : 3 : 4 : 4 pattern from left to right, and form three frontal, four frontoventral, one buccal, five ventral and five transverse cirri; (ii) the dorsal structure is similar to most other oxytrichids; that is, in a '4+2' pattern with three caudal cirri being formed. Based on the small-subunit rDNA sequence, the novel species is different from its congeners by between 21 and 35 bp, with sequence identities from 0.978 to 0.987. All molecular trees exhibited a similar topology: the monophyly of species of the genus Sterkiella is not completely supported in our analyses, and approximately unbiased tests (both including and excluding the novel species) also reject the possibility that Sterkiella is a monophyletic lineage, as indicated by the morphology-based classification.