Molecular phylogenetics supports a clade of red algal parasites retaining native plastids: taxonomy and terminology revised

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Parasitism is a life strategy that has repeatedly evolved within the Florideophyceae. Historically, the terms adelphoparasite and alloparasite have been used to distinguish parasites based on the relative phylogenetic relationship of host and parasite. However, analyses using molecular phylogenetics indicate that nearly all red algal parasites infect within their taxonomic family, and a range of relationships exist between host and parasite. To date, all investigated adelphoparasites have lost their plastid, and instead, incorporate a host-derived plastid when packaging spores. In contrast, a highly reduced plastid lacking photosynthesis genes was sequenced from the alloparasite Choreocolax polysiphoniae. Here we present the complete Harveyella mirabilis plastid genome, which has also lost genes involved in photosynthesis, and a partial plastid genome from Leachiella pacifica. The H. mirabilis plastid shares more synteny with free-living red algal plastids than that of C. polysiphoniae. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrates that C. polysiphoniae, H. mirabilis, and L. pacifica form a robustly supported clade of parasites, which retain their own plastid genomes, within the Rhodomelaceae. We therefore transfer all three genera from the exclusively parasitic family, Choreocolacaceae, to the Rhodomelaceae. Additionally, we recommend applying the terms archaeplastic parasites (formerly alloparasites), and neoplastic parasites (formerly adelphoparasites) to distinguish red algal parasites using a biological framework rather than taxonomic affiliation with their hosts.

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Journal of Phycology