Rappemonads are haptophyte phytoplankton

Masanobu Kawachi, Takuro Nakayama, Motoki Kayama, Mami Nomura, Hideaki Miyashita, Othman Bojo, Lesley Rhodes, Stuart Sym, Richard N. Pienaar, Ian Probert, Isao Inouye, Ryoma Kamikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Rapidly accumulating genetic data from environmental sequencing approaches have revealed an extraordinary level of unsuspected diversity within marine phytoplankton,1–11 which is responsible for around 50% of global net primary production.12,13 However, the phenotypic identity of many of the organisms distinguished by environmental DNA sequences remains unclear. The rappemonads represent a plastid-bearing protistan lineage that to date has only been identified by environmental plastid 16S rRNA sequences.14–17 The phenotypic identity of this group, which does not confidently cluster in any known algal clades in 16S rRNA phylogenetic reconstructions,15 has remained unknown since the first report of environmental sequences over two decades ago. We show that rappemonads are closely related to a haptophyte microalga, Pavlomulina ranunculiformis gen. nov. et sp. nov., and belong to a new haptophyte class, the Rappephyceae. Organellar phylogenomic analyses provide strong evidence for the inclusion of this lineage within the Haptophyta as a sister group to the Prymnesiophyceae. Members of this new class have a cosmopolitan distribution in coastal and oceanic regions. The relative read abundance of Rappephyceae in a large environmental barcoding dataset was comparable to, or greater than, those of major haptophyte species, such as the bloom-forming Gephyrocapsa huxleyi and Prymnesium parvum, and this result indicates that they likely have a significant impact as primary producers. Detailed characterization of Pavlomulina allowed for reconstruction of the ancient evolutionary history of the Haptophyta, a group that is one of the most important components of extant marine phytoplankton communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2395-2403.e4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun 7
Externally publishedYes


  • environmental DNA sequences
  • morphological evolution
  • organellar phylogenomics
  • phytoplankton diversity
  • transmission electron microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Rappemonads are haptophyte phytoplankton'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this