Nassellaria are marine protists belonging to the Radiolaria lineage (Rhizaria). Their skeleton, made of opaline silica, exhibit an excellent fossil record, extremely valuable in micro-paleontological studies for paleo-environmental reconstruction. Yet, to date very little is known about the extant diversity and ecology of Nassellaria in contemporary oceans, and most of it is inferred from their fossil record. Here we present an integrative classification of Nassellaria based on taxonomical marker genes (18S and 28S ribosomal DNA) and morphological characteristics obtained by optical and scanning electron microscopy imaging. Our phylogenetic analyses distinguished 11 main morpho-molecular clades relying essentially on the overall morphology of the skeleton and not on internal structures as previously considered. Using fossil calibrated molecular clock we estimated the origin of Nassellaria among radiolarians primitive forms in the Devonian (ca. 420 Ma), that gave rise to living nassellarian groups in the Triassic (ca. 250 Ma), during the biggest diversification event over their evolutionary history. This morpho-molecular framework provides both a new morphological classification easier to identify under light microscopy and the basis for future molecular ecology surveys. Altogether, it brings a new standpoint to improve our scarce understanding of the ecology and worldwide distribution of extant nassellarians.
- calibrated molecular clock
- morpho-molecular classification
- silica skeleton
ASJC Scopus subject areas