Old Lineages in a New Ecosystem: Diversification of Arcellinid Amoebae (Amoebozoa) and Peatland Mosses

Arcellinid testate amoebae (Amoebozoa) form a group of free-living microbial eukaryotes with one of the oldest fossil records known, yet several aspects of their evolutionary history remain poorly understood. Arcellinids occur in a range of terrestrial, freshwater and even brackish habitats; however, many arcellinid morphospecies such as Hyalosphenia papilio are particularly abundant in Sphagnum-dominated peatlands, a relatively new ecosystem that appeared during the diversification of Sphagnum species in the Miocene (5–20 Myr ago). Here, we reconstruct divergence times in arcellinid testate amoebae after selecting several fossils for clock calibrations and then infer whether or not arcellinids followed a pattern of diversification that parallels the pattern described for Sphagnum. We found that the diversification of core arcellinids occurred during the Phanerozoic, which is congruent with most arcellinid fossils but not with the oldest known amoebozoan fossil (i.e. at ca. 662 or ca. 750 Myr). Overall, Sphagnum and the Hyalospheniidae exhibit different patterns of diversification. However, an extensive molecular phylogenetic analysis of distinct clades within H. papilio species complex demonstrated a correlation between the recent diversification of H. papilio, the recent diversification of Sphagnum mosses, and the establishment of peatlands.