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The Biodiversity, Systematics and Guide to the Identification of Marine Benthic Ciliates

Final Report Summary - BENTHIC CILIATES (The Biodiversity, Systematics and Guide to the Identification of Marine Benthic Ciliates)

The Benthic Ciliates project dealt with three main tasks during the return phase:
1) To increase knowledge of species diversity of marine benthic ciliates.
2) To provide molecular sequence data for selected taxa.
3) To develop a web-based guide to the identification of marine benthic ciliates.

* Sample collection of different sediments (sandy beach, muddy flats, salt marshes etc.) was mainly undertaken during 10 field trips to various locations along the southern and northeast coasts of China. After isolation, raw and/or pure cultures were established. Live ciliates were observed and photographed. Ciliates were stained using silver impregnation methods in order to reveal infraciliature and silverline system. A total of 112 permanent slides were prepared. Based on morphological and statistical data from live and stained specimens, 45 species of marine benthic ciliates have been identified since the beginning of the return phase. Morphogenesis was investigated for 4 species.

* DNA extractions and PCR amplification have been carried out for 30 species and sequence data were obtained for 15 species. Phylogenetic analyses have been carried out for 10 species.

* A literature search was carried out and data assembled for the construction of a web-based guide to marine benthic ciliates. Data collection was completed. The structure of the guide was constructed within a Scratchpad. With the coming of the new version of Scratchpad, our old site http://s1.ciliate.myspecies.info will have to be upgraded to the new one. This relocation commences on 10 March 2014. Data imputing and updating has not be completed yet.

The significant findings included:
1. It is the only one that utilises all three of the main on which the modern taxonomy of ciliates is based, namely morphological, morphogenetic and molecular. This has so far resulted in the discovery of three new genera, 11 new (sub) species and 19 new records for China. Meanwhile, morphogenetic modes of four species are revealed for the first time. The current work therefore constitutes a significance advance in knowledge of Chinese biodiversity of marine benthic ciliates and will help China to fulfil their obligations to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

2. Molecular sequence data are first available for 30 species, several of which were previously of uncertain taxonomic affinity. The present study therefore helps to determine their systematic position and thus provide the basis for a more robust taxonomy. In other cases the molecular data will allow the genetic relatedness between morphospecies from geographically distant localities to be assessed thereby informing the debate on whether such taxa are cosmopolitan or are geographically restricted.