Skip to main content Accessibility help

Provisional checklist of terrestrial heterotrophic protists from Antarctica

  • Andrew R. Thompson (a1), Gareth S. Powell (a1) and Byron J. Adams (a1) (a2)


Heterotrophic soil protists encompass lineages that are both evolutionarily ancient and highly diverse, providing an untapped wealth of scientific insight. Yet the diversity of free-living heterotrophic terrestrial protists is still largely unknown. To contribute to our understanding of this diversity, we present a checklist of heterotrophic protists currently reported from terrestrial Antarctica, for which no comprehensive evaluation currently exists. As a polar continent, Antarctica is especially susceptible to rising temperatures caused by anthropogenic climate change. Establishing a baseline for future conservation efforts of Antarctic protists is therefore important. We performed a literature search and found 236 taxa identified to species and an additional 303 taxa identified to higher taxonomic levels in 54 studies spanning over 100 years of research. Isolated by distance, climate and the circumpolar vortex, Antarctica is the most extreme continent on Earth: it is not unreasonable to think that it may host physiologically and evolutionarily unique species of protists, yet currently most species discovered in Antarctica are considered cosmopolitan. Additional sampling of the more extreme intra-continental zones will probably result in the discovery of more novel and unique taxa.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Adl, S.M., Leander, B.S., Simpson, A.G., Archibald, J.M., Anderson, O.R., Bass, D., et al. 2007. Diversity, nomenclature, and taxonomy of protists. Systematic Biology, 56, 684689.
Amesbury, M.J., Roland, T.P., Royles, J., Hodgson, D.A., Convey, P., Griffiths, H., et al. 2017. Widespread biological response to rapid warming on the Antarctic Peninsula. Current Biology, 27, 10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.034.
Anderson, O.R. 2012. The role of bacterial-based protist communities in aquatic and soil ecosystems and the carbon biogeochemical cycle, with emphasis on naked amoebae. Acta Protozoologica, 51, 10.4467/16890027AP.12.017.0763.
Appeltans, W., Ahyong, S.T., Anderson, G., Angel, M.V., Artois, T., Bailly, N., 2012. The magnitude of global marine species diversity. Current Biology, 22, 10.1016/j.cub.2012.09.036.
Badewitz, H.J. 2004. The genus Microcorycia Cockerell, 1911 (Testacealobosia, Rhizopoda, Protozoa). A critical monograph of the genus including a first description of a new species: Microcorycia scutella n. sp. Lauterbornia, 50, 111146.
Bamforth, S.S., Wall, D.H. & Virginia, R.A. 2005. Distribution and diversity of soil protozoa in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Polar Biology, 28, 10.1007/s00300-005-0006-4.
Boenigk, J., Pfandl, K., Garstecki, T., Harms, H., Novarino, G. & Chatzinotas, A. 2006. Evidence for geographic isolation and signs of endemism within a protistan morphospecies. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 72, 10.1128/AEM.00601-06.
Bovee, E.C. 1951. A proposal for the transfer of the protozoan amoeba limicola (Rhubler), to the genus Pelomyxa. The Anatomical Record, 111, 585585.
Bovee, E.C. 1965. An ecological study of amebas from a small stream in northern Florida. Hydrobiologia, 25, 10.1007/BF00189855.
Burton-Johnson, A., Black, M., Fretwell, P.T. & Kaluza-Gilbert, J. 2016. An automated methodology for differentiating rock from snow, clouds and sea in Antarctica from Landsat 8 imagery: a new rock outcrop map and area estimation for the entire Antarctic continent. The Cryosphere, 10, 16651677.
Chao, A., Li, P.C., Agatha, S. & Foissner, W. 2006. A statistical approach to estimate soil ciliate diversity and distribution based on data from five continents Oikos, 114, 479493.
Chown, S.L. & Convey, P. 2007. Spatial and temporal variability across life's hierarchies in the terrestrial Antarctic. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B362, 10.1098/rstb.2006.1949.
Clarholm, M. 2005. Soil protozoa: an under-researched microbial group gaining momentum. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 37, 10.1016/j.soilbio.2004.11.002.
Convey, P., Chown, S.L., Clarke, A., Barnes, D.K.A., Bokhorst, S., Cummings, V., 2014. The spatial structure of Antarctic biodiversity. Ecological Monographs, 84, 10.1890/12-2216.1.
Corliss, J.O. 2004. Why the world needs protists! Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, 51, 822.
Cotterill, F.P.D., Al-Rasheid, K. & Foissner, W. 2008. Conservation of protists: is it needed at all? Biodiversity and Conservation, 17, 10.1007/s10531-007-9261-8.
Couteaux, M.M. & Darbyshire, J.F. 1998. Functional diversity amongst soil protozoa. Applied Soil Ecology, 10, 229237.
de Vargas, C., Audic, S., Henry, N., Decelle, J., Mahe, F., Logares, R., 2015. Eukaryotic plankton diversity in the sunlit ocean. Science, 348, 10.1126/science.1261605.
Dillon, R.D., Walsh, G.L. & Bierle, D.A. 1968. A preliminary survey of Antarctic meltwater and soil amoeba. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society, 87, 486492.
Doolittle, R.F., Feng, D.-F., Tsang, S., Cho, G. & Little, E. 1996. Determining divergence times of the major kingdoms of living organisms with a protein clock. Science, 271, 470476.
Doran, P.T., Lyons, W.B. & McKnight, D.M. 2010. Life in Antarctic Deserts and other Cold Dry Environments: Astrobiological Analogs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 300 pp.
Dumack, K., Mausbach, P., Hegmann, M. & Bonkowski, M. 2017. Polyphyly in the thecate amoeba genus Lecythium (Chlamydophryidae, Tectofilosida, Cercozoa), redescription of its type species L. hyalinum, description of L. jennyae sp. nov. and the establishment of Fisculla gen. nov. and Fiscullidae fam. nov. Protist, 168, 10.1016/j.protis.2017.03.003.
Foissner, W. 1996. Faunistics, taxonomy and ecology of moss and soil ciliates (Protozoa, Ciliophora) from Antarctica, with description of new species, including Pleuroplitoides smithi gen. n., sp. n. Acta Protozoologica, 35, 95123.
Foissner, W. & Korganova, G.A. 2000. The Centropyxis aerophila complex (Protozoa: Testacea). Acta Protozoologica, 39, 257273.
Foissner, W., Agatha, S. & Berger, H. 2002. Soil ciliates (Protozoa, Ciliophora) from Namibia (southwest Africa), with emphasis on two contrasting envrionments, the Etosha Region and the Namib Desert. Denisia, 5, 11459.
Frenot, Y., Chown, S.L., Whinam, J., Selkirk, P.M., Convey, P., Skotnicki, M., 2005. Biological invasions in the Antarctic: extent, impacts and implications. Biological Reviews, 80, 10.1017/s1464793104006542.
Geisen, S., Mitchell, E.A.D., Adl, S., Bonkowski, M., Dunthorn, M., Ekelund, F., 2018. Soil protists: a fertile frontier in soil biology research. FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 42, 10.1093/femsre/fuy006.
Glotova, A., Bondarenko, N. & Smirnov, A.V. 2018. High genetic diversity of amoebae belonging to the genus Mayorella (Amoebozoa, Discosea, Dermamoebida) in natural habitats. Acta Protozoologica, 57, 2942.
Golemansky, V. & Todorov, M. 2004. Additional data and summarized check-list on the rhizopods (Rhizopoda: Amoebida & Testacea) from Livingston Island, South Shetlands, the Antarctic. Bulgarian Antarctic Research, Life Science, 4, 8393.
Goodkov, A.V., Chistyakova, L.V., Seravin, L.N. & Frolov, A.O. 2004. The concept of pelobionts (Peloflagelatea class) - a brief history and current status. Entomological Review, 84, S10S20.
Griffin, J.L. 1988. Fine structure and taxonomic position of the giant amoeboid flagellate Pelomyxa palustris. Journal of Protozoology, 35, 10.1111/j.1550-7408.1988.tb04348.x.
Hada, Y. 1964. The fresh-water fauna of the protozoa in the region of the Show Station in Antarctica. Bulletin of Suzugamine Women's College, Natural Science, 11, 521.
Hada, Y. 1966. The freshwater fauna of the protozoa in the region of the Syowa Station in Antarctica. JARE Scientific Reports, Special Issue, 4, 209215.
Haentzsch, M., Schmidt, S.L., Bernhard, D., Ammermann, D., Berendonk, T.U. & Schlegel, M. 2006. A PCR-based method to distinguish the sibling species Stylonychia mytilus and Stylonychia lemnae (Ciliophora, Spirotrichea) using isocitrate dehydrogenase gene sequences. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, 53, 10.1111/j.1550-7408.2006.00111.x.
Heldmann, J.L., Pollard, W., McKay, C.P., Marinova, M.M., Davila, A., Williams, K.E., 2013. The high elevation Dry Valleys in Antarctica as analog sites for subsurface ice on Mars. Planetary and Space Science, 85, 10.1016/j.pss.2013.05.019.
Howe, A.T., Bass, D., Vickerman, K., Chao, E.E. & Cavalier-Smith, T. 2009. Phylogeny, taxonomy, and astounding genetic diversity of Glissomonadida ord. nov., the dominant gliding zooflagellates in soil (Protozoa: Cercozoa). Protist, 160, 10.1016/j.protis.2008.11.007.
Hughes, K.A. & Convey, P. 2010. The protection of Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems from inter- and intra-continental transfer of non-indigenous species by human activities: a review of current systems and practices. Global Environmental Change, 20, 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2009.09.005.
Hughes, K.A., Pertierra, L.R., Molina-Montenegro, M.A. & Convey, P. 2015. Biological invasions in terrestrial Antarctica: what is the current status and can we respond? Biodiversity and Conservation, 24, 10.1007/s10531-015-0896-6.
Ing, B. & Smith, R. 1983. Further myxomycete records from South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. British Antarctic Survey Bulletin, 59, 8081.
Janetschek, H. 1963. On the terrestrial fauna of the Ross Sea area, Antarctica. Pacific Insects, 5, 305311.
Larsen, B.B., Miller, E.C., Rhodes, M.K. & Wiens, J.J. 2017. Inordinate fondness multiplied and redistributed: the number of species on Earth and the new pie of life. Quarterly Review of Biology, 92, 10.1086/693564.
Lawley, B., Ripley, S., Bridge, P. & Convey, P. 2004. Molecular analysis of geographic patterns of eukaryotic diversity in Antarctic soils. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 70, 10.1128/AEM.70.10.5963-5972.2004.
Mieczan, T. & Tarkowska-Kukuryk, M. 2014. Ecology of moss dwelling ciliates from King George Island, Antarctic: the effect of environmental parameters. Polish Polar Research, 35, 10.2478/popore–2014–0026.
Mora, C., Tittensor, D.P., Adl, S., Simpson, A.G.B. & Worm, B. 2011. How many species are there on Earth and in the ocean? PLoS Biology, 9, e1001127.
Nielsen, U.N. & Wall, D.H. 2013. The future of soil invertebrate communities in polar regions: different climate change responses in the Arctic and Antarctic? Ecology Letters, 16, 10.1111/ele.12058.
Park, K.M., Jung, J.H., Min, G.S. & Kim, S. 2017. Pseudonotohymena antarctica n. g., n. sp. (Ciliophora, Hypotricha), a new species from Antarctic soil. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, 64, 10.1111/jeu.12381.
Park, K.M., Min, G.S. & Kim, S. 2018. Morphology and phylogeny of a new species, Uroleptus (Caudiholosticha) antarctica n. sp. (Ciliophora, Hypotricha) from Greenwich Island in Antarctica. Zootaxa, 4483, 10.11646/zootaxa.4483.3.10.
Pawlowski, J., Audic, S., Adl, S., Bass, D., Belbahri, L., Berney, C., 2012. CBOL Protist Working Group: barcoding eukaryotic richness beyond the animal, plant, and fungal kingdoms. PLoS Biology, 10, e1001419.
Penard, E. 1911. Sarcodina. Rhizopodes d'eau douce. London: W. Heinemann, 260 pp.
Petz, W. 1997. Ecology of the active soil microfauna (Protozoa, Metazoa) of Wilkes Land Antarctica. Polar Biology, 18, 10.1007/s003000050156.
Petz, W. & Foissner, W. 1997. Morphology and infraciliature of some soil ciliates (Protozoa, Ciliophora) from continental Antarctica, with notes on the morphogenesis of Sterkiella histriomuscorum. Polar Record, 33, 307326.
Petz, W., Valbonesi, A., Schiftner, U., Quesada, A. & Cynan Ellis-Evans, J. 2007. Ciliate biogeography in Antarctic and Arctic freshwater ecosystems: endemism or global distribution of species? FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 59, 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2006.00259.x.
Putzke, J., Pereira, A.B. & Terezinha Lopes, M. 2004. A new record of myxomycetes to the Antarctic. In Actas del V Simposio Argentino y I Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Antarticas. Buenos Aires: IAA, 14.
Richters, F. 1907. Die Fauna der Moosrasen des Gaussberges und einiger südlicher Inseln. Deutsche Südpolar-Expedition 1901–1903, 1, 259302.
Richters, F. 1908. Moosbewohner. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse Schwedischen Südpolar-Expedition, 6, 116.
Rogers, A.D. 2007. Evolution and biodiversity of Antarctic organisms: a molecular perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of Lond. Series B, Biological Science, 362, 10.1098/rstb.2006.1948.
Roland, T.P., Amesbury, M.J., Wilkinson, D.M., Charman, D.J., Convey, P., Hodgson, D.A., 2017. Taxonomic implications of morphological complexity within the testate amoeba genus Corythion from the Antarctic Peninsula. Protist, 168, 10.1016/j.protis.2017.07.006.
Rønn, R., Vestergård, M. & Ekelund, F. 2012. Interactions between bacteria, protozoa and nematodes in soil. Acta Protozoologica, 51, 10.4467/16890027AP.12.018.0764.
Royles, J., Amesbury, M.J., Roland, T.P., Jones, G.D., Convey, P., Griffiths, H., 2016. Moss stable isotopes (carbon-13, oxygen-18) and testate amoebae reflect environmental inputs and microclimate along a latitudinal gradient on the Antarctic Peninsula. Oecologia, 181, 10.1007/s00442-016-3608-3.
Sandon, H. & Cutler, D.W. 1924. Some protozoa from the soils collected by the Quest Expedition (1921–1922). Journal of the Linnean Society, 36, 112.
Smirnov, A.V. & Brown, S. 2004. Guide to the methods of study and identification of soil gymnamoebae. Protistology, 3, 148190.
Smith, H.G. 1972. The terrestrial protozoa of Elephant Island. British Antarctic Survey Bulletin, 31, 5562.
Smith, H.G. 1974. The colonization of volcanic tephra on Deception Island by protozoa. British Antarctic Survey Bulletin, 38, 4958.
Smith, H.G. 1978. Distribution and Ecology of Terrestrial Protozoa of Sub-Antarctic and Maritime Antarctic Islands. British Antarctic Survey Scientific Reports, 95. Swindon: National Environment Research Council, 104 pp.
Smith, H.G. 1992. Distribution and ecology of the testate rhizopod fauna of the continental Antarctic Zone. Polar Biology, 12, 629634.
Smith, H.G. 1996. Diversity of Antarctic terrestrial protozoa. Biodiversity and Conservation, 5, 10.1007/BF00051984.
Stephenson, S.L., Laursen, G.A. & Seppelt, R.D. 2007. Myxomycetes of subantarctic Macquarie Island. Australian Journal of Botany, 55, 439449.
Sudzuki, M. 1964. On the microfauna of the Antarctic region, I. Moss-water community at langhovde. Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition Scientific Report, 1–41.
Sudzuki, M. 1979. On the microfauna of the Antarctic region. III. Microbiota of the terrestrial interstices. Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition Scientific Report, 104–126.
Terauds, A. & Lee, J.R. 2016. Antarctic biogeography revisited - updating the Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions. Diversity and Distributions, 22, 10.1111/ddi.12453.
Terauds, A., Chown, S.L., Morgan, F., Peat, H.J., Watts, D.J., Keys, H., 2012. Conservation biogeography of the Antarctic. Diversity and Distributions, 18, 726741.
Todorov, M. & Golemansky, V. 1996. Notes on testate amoebae (Protozoa: Rhizopoda) from Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic. Bulgarian Antarctic Research Life Sciences, 1, 7081.
Tyml, T., Skulinova, K., Kavan, J., Ditrich, O., Kostka, M. & Dykova, I. 2016. Heterolobosean amoebae from Arctic and Antarctic extremes: 18 novel strains of Allovahlkampfia, Vahlkampfia and Naegleria. European Journal of Protistology, 56, 10.1016/j.ejop.2016.08.003.
Venter, P.C., Nitsche, F. & Arndt, H. 2018. The hidden diversity of flagellated protists in soil. Protist, 169, 10.1016/j.protis.2018.04.007.
Vyverman, W., Verleyen, E., Wilmotte, A., Hodgson, D.A., Willems, A., Peeters, K., 2010. Evidence for widespread endemism among Antarctic micro-organisms. Polar Science, 4, 10.1016/j.polar.2010.03.006.
Whatley, J.M. & Chapman, A.C. 1990. Phylum Karyoblastea. In Corliss, J.O., Melkonian, M. & Chapman, D.J., eds. Handbook of Protoctista. Boston, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 167185.
Wilkinson, D.M., Creevy, A.L. & Valentine, J. 2012. The past, present and future of soil protist ecology. Acta Protozoologica, 51, 10.4467/16890027AP.12.015.0761.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Thompson et al. supplementary material
Thompson et al. supplementary material

 Word (22 KB)
22 KB

Provisional checklist of terrestrial heterotrophic protists from Antarctica

  • Andrew R. Thompson (a1), Gareth S. Powell (a1) and Byron J. Adams (a1) (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed