First Advisor

Megan E. Cevasco


Recent studies of living foraminifera, microscopic aquatic protists, indicate that some species have the ability to steal photosynthetic plastids from other microorganism and keep them viable through a process called kleptoplasty. Studying the symbiotic relationships within these diverse protists gives insight not only into evolutionary history, but also their importance to the ecosystem. We determined the presence of these kleptoplastic species and identified presence and origin of sequestered plastids based on morphological identification and molecular data from samples collected at Waties Island, South Carolina. We identified two kleptoplastic genera (Elphidium and Haynesina) and two non-kleptoplastic genera (Ammonia and Quinqueloculina) present in the lagoon. Phylogenomic results indicated that sequestered plastids originated from pennate diatoms from the genus Amphora. However, further research is needed to prevent bias due to environmental impact and corroborate host specificity and plastid origin.



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