Morphology and phylogeny of the ciliate Psilotricha silvicola n. sp. (Alveolata, Ciliophora) from woodland soils in the United Kingdom

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The genus Psilotricha was established by Stein in 1859, with P. acuminata as the type species within the family Oxytrichidae. This species lacked a full description until it was re-discovered in 2001, showing that its morphological and morphogenetic characters confirmed the inclusion in the family Oxytrichidae. Since then, the genus Psilotricha has had a convoluted taxonomy despite the morphological evidence available. In this paper, we describe a new Psilotricha species, Psilotricha silvicola n. sp., from woodland soils in Southern England (United Kingdom). The morphology was investigated in live and protargol-impregnated specimens. Our findings show that P. silvicola n. sp. shares morphological characteristics with P. acuminata, including the distinctive cell shape and the long and sparse cirri. Phylogenetic analysis of the 18S rRNA gene places this new species within the family Oxytrichidae, nested apart from the family Psilotrichidae (which includes the genera Urospinula, Psilotrichides and Hemiholosticha), in a clade containing species of the family Oxytrichidae. Furthermore, the morphology of another Psilotricha species, P. viridis, found in a freshwater pond in the same woodland area, is also here described, bringing additional insight into the taxonomy of the genus. Our findings provide further evidence for inclusion of the genus Psilotricha within the oxytrichids.