Research Article

Phylogeny and evolution of the piroplasms

M. T. E. P. Allsoppa1, T. Cavalier-Smitha2, D. T. De Waala1 and B. A. Allsoppa1

a1 Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, Private Bag X5, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa

a2 University of British Columbia, Department of Botany, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver V6T 1Z4, Canada


Small subunit ribosomal RNA (srRNA) genes of three Theileria species, one Cytauxzoon and four Babesia species were amplified using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), cloned and sequenced. Our sequences were aligned with srRNA sequences previously published for eight species of Apicomplexa, one ciliate and one dinoflagellate, the last two being included as free-living outgroup species. Phylogenetic relationships between the organisms were inferred by four in-dependent methods of phylogenetic tree construction using the ciliate Oxytricha nova to root the trees. Our trees fail to show a consensus branching order. They do, however, clearly indicate that the theilerias form a monophyletic taxon derived from a paraphyletic group which includes the species B. equi, C. felis and B. rodhaini. The distance trees indicate that the babesias sensu stricto (B. canis, B. caballi, B. bigemina and B. bovis) form another monophyletic taxon which diverged before the theilerias separated from the above-mentioned paraphyletic group. The parsimony and maximum likelihood trees suggest that the babesias and theilerias are sister taxa, both of which were derived from the paraphyletic group.

(Received April 29 1993)

(Revised June 17 1993)

(Accepted July 16 1993)