A new genus of xenophyophores (Foraminifera) from Japan Trench: morphological description, molecular phylogeny and elemental analysis
The deep-sea floor is inhabited by a number of unusual and enigmatic taxa, unknown in shallow waters. These include the xenophyophores, a group of giant protists that construct fragile agglutinated tests. Here, we describe Shinkaiya lindsayi gen. et sp. nov., a new xenophyophore collected by the submersible Shinkai 6500 at a depth of 5435 m near the Japan Trench. The phylogenetic analysis performed on its complete small-subunit ribosomal DNA (SSU rDNA) sequence confirms that Sh. lindsayi sp. nov. is a foraminiferan that is closely related to another xenophyophore, Syringammina corbicula Richardson, 2001, and to a monothalamous (single-chambered) foraminiferan Rhizammina algaeformis Brady, 1879. In terms of morphology, the new genus resembles Syringammina, but its test wall is thicker, softer, and more weakly cemented. Moreover, the SSU rDNA sequences of the two genera are highly divergent. Mass spectra analyses reveal unusually high concentrations of some elements, such as lead, uranium, and mercury. The granellare system (the cytoplasm and the organic sheath that encloses it) is apparently devoid of barite crystals, which are usually abundant as intracellular inclusions in xenophyophores, but is rich in mercury (with 12 times the concentration of mercury found in the surrounding sediment). Fecal pellets retained within a tubular system (stercomare) concentrate heavy metals, including lead and uranium (respectively, two and six times more than that of the sediment). Based on a comparison of the compositions of the agglutinated test wall, the granellare, the stercomare, and the surrounding sediment, we discuss the impact of xenophyophores on their habitat.
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