Response to Preuss and Zuccarello (2020): biological definitions that can be unambiguously applied for red algal parasites

Document Type

Letter to the Editor

Date of Original Version



In response to a comment in this issue on our proposal of new terminology to distinguish red algal parasites, we clarify a few key issues. The terms adelphoparasite and alloparasite were previously used to identify parasites that infected close or distant relatives. However, most red algal parasites have only been studied morphologically, and molecular tools have shown that these binary terms do a poor job at representing the range of parasite–host relationships. We recognize the need to clarify inferred misconceptions that appear to be drawing from historical terminology to contaminate our new definitions. We did not intend to replace the term adelphoparasite with neoplastic parasites and the term alloparasites with archaeplastic parasites. Rather, we seek to establish new terms for discussing red algal parasites, based on the retention of a native plastid, a binary biological trait that is relatively easy to identify using modern methods and has biological implications for the interactions between a parasite and its host. The new terminology can better account for the spectrum of relationships and developmental patterns found among the many independently evolved red algal parasites, and it is intended to inspire new research, particularly the role of plastids in the survival and evolution of red algal parasites.

Publication Title

Journal of Phycology