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Abstract

Environmental sequencing surveys of soils and freshwaters revealed high abundance and diversity of the Rhogostomidae, a group of omnivorous thecate amoebae. This is puzzling since only a few Rhogostomidae species have yet been described and only a handful of reports mention them in field surveys. We investigated the putative cryptic diversity of the Rhogostomidae by a critical re-evaluation of published environmental sequencing data and in-depth ecological and morphological trait analyses. The Rhogostomidae exhibit an amazing diversity of genetically distinct clades that occur in a variety of different environments. We further broadly sampled for Rhogostomidae species; based on these isolates, we describe eleven new species and highlight important morphological traits for species delimitation. The most important environmental drivers that shape the Rhogostomidae community were soil moisture, soil pH, and total plant biomass. The length/width ratio of the theca was a morphological trait related to the colonized habitats, but not the shape and size of the aperture that is often linked to moisture adaption in testate and thecate amoebae.

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