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The phylogenetic position of Acanthamoeba 

Page updated 11/8/02

The protozoa have long been portrayed as a "missing link" between the animals and plants, but perhaps because they are so manifestly motile, they have tended to be classified as animal more than vegetable (thus the name protozoa!).  The truth is of course much more muddy and uncertain, as is the case for most issues.  Many protists (e.g. unicellular algae) are obviously affiliated to the plants than plants, while others (e.g. most amoebae) are considered animal. However, the "amoebae" are an eclectic group of organisms connected only by a common life style.  It is my contention that Acanthamoeba are more closely related to plants than animals, but admittedly this argument is of little actual consequence.  However, an understanding of the basic biology of Acanthamoeba is of course relevant since the genus is significant to the micro-ecology of soil (and therefore agriculture) and human health. 

SSUrDNA is probably the best current tool for the determination of intra-organism relationships (with a few caveats).  These analysis tend to place Acanthamoeba close to the green algae and plants, however because Acanthamoeba (well, A. castellanii Neff strain, at least, the others are not so well characterised) is so G and C rich, this may be problematic for such analysis.  Other approaches are therefore needed to back this up. 



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