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Global diversity of rotifers (Rotifera) in freshwater

Authors:Hendrik Segers

Abstract:Rotifera is a Phylum of primary freshwater Metazoa containing two major groups: the heterogonic Monogononta and the exclusively parthenogenetic Bdelloidea. Monogononta contains 1,570 species-level taxa, of which a majority (1,488) are free-living fresh or inland water taxa. Bdelloidea contains 461 “species,” only one of which is marine, but with many limnoterrestrial representatives or animals of unknown ecology. Actual numbers may be much higher, considering the occurrence of cryptic speciation in Monogononta and the unsatisfactory nature of taxonomic knowledge. Rotifers, mostly monogononts, occur in all types of water bodies, worldwide. They are particularly diverse in the littoral zone of stagnant waterbodies with soft, slightly acidic water and under oligo- to mesotrophic conditions. The rotifer record is highest in the Northern hemisphere, which may be due to the concentration of studies in those regions. Diversity is highest in the (sub)tropics; hotspots are northeast North America, tropical South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Lake Baikal, endemicity is low in Africa (including Madagascar), Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Antarctica. Although the lack of fossil evidence and of molecular phylogenetic studies are major hindrances, contrasting hypotheses on the origin and evolutionary history of Brachionus, Macrochaetus, and Trichocerca are presented.

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