Urosporids (Apicomplexa: Urosporidae) are eugregarines that parasitise marine invertebrates, such as annelids, molluscs, nemerteans and echinoderms, inhabiting their coelom and intestine. Urosporids exhibit considerable morphological plasticity, which correlates with their different modes of motility and variations in structure of their cortical zone, according to the localisation within the host. The gregarines Urospora ovalis and U. travisiae from the marine polychaete Travisia forbesii were investigated with an emphasis on their general morphology and phylogenetic position. Solitary ovoid trophozoites and syzygies of U. ovalis were located free in the host coelom and showed metabolic activity, a non-progressive movement with periodic changes of the cell shape. Solitary trophozoites of U. travisiae, attached to the host tissue or free floating in the coelom, were V-shaped. Detached trophozoites demonstrated gliding motility, a progressive movement without observable cell body changes. In both gregarines, the cortex formed numerous epicytic folds, but superfolds appeared exclusively on the surface of U. ovalis during metabolic activity. SSU rDNA sequences obtained from U. ovalis and U. travisiae revealed that they belong to the Lecudinoidea clade; however, they are not affiliated with other coelomic urosporids (Pterospora spp. and Lithocystis spp.), but surprisingly with intestinal lecudinids (Difficilina spp.) parasitising nemerteans.
Keywords: 18S rDNA phylogeny.; Urosporidae; gliding and metaboly; marine eugregarines; superfolds; ultrastructure.
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