Genetic diversity in the Paramecium aurelia species complex

Francesco Catania, François Wurmser, Alexey A. Potekhin, Ewa Przyboś, Michael Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Current understanding of the population genetics of free-living unicellular eukaryotes is limited, and the amount of genetic variability in these organisms is still a matter of debate. We characterized - reproductively and genetically - worldwide samples of multiple Paramecium species belonging to a cryptic species complex, Paramecium aurelia, whose species have been shown to be reproductively isolated. We found that levels of genetic diversity both in the nucleus and in the mitochondrion are substantial within groups of reproductively compatible P. aurelia strains but drop considerably when strains are partitioned according to their phylogenetic groupings. Our study reveals the existence of discrepancies between the mating behavior of a number of P. aurelia strains and their multilocus genetic profile, a controversial finding that has major consequences for both the current methods of species assignment and the species problem in the P. aurelia complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-431
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cryptic species
  • Effective population size
  • Genetic diversity
  • Mating group switching
  • Paramecium
  • Speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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