Acantharia are ubiquitous and abundant rhizarian protists in the world ocean. The skeleton made of strontium sulphate and the fact that certain harbour microalgal endosymbionts make them key planktonic players for the ecology of marine ecosystems. Based on morphological criteria, the current taxonomy of Acantharia was established by W.T. Schewiakoff in 1926, since when no major revision has been undertaken. Here, we established the first comprehensive molecular phylogeny from single morphologically-identified acantharian cells, isolated from various oceans. Our phylogenetic analyses based on 78 18S rDNA and 107 partial 28S rDNA revealed the existence of 6 main clades, sub-divided into 13 sub-clades. The polyphyletic nature of acantharian families and genera demonstrates the need for revision of the current taxonomy. This molecular phylogeny, which highlights the taxonomic relevance of specific morphological criteria, such as the presence of a shell and the organisation of the central junction, provides a robust phylogenetic framework for future taxonomic emendation. Finally, mapping all the existing environmental sequences available to date from different marine ecosystems onto our reference phylogeny unveiled another 3 clades and improved the understanding of the biogeography and ecology of Acantharia.
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