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Volume 3, Number 4—December 1997

Reply to W.C. Marquardt

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Reply to W.C. Marquardt: Dr. Marquardt's advocacy for reliance on morphologic characteristics even if phylogenetic data become available that lead to a different conclusion runs counter to that expressed in an article he coauthored, which supports the importance of molecular data (1). The introduction of that paper states the following:

"Early systematists relied largely on light microscopic structures and life cycle patterns to separate protozoa taxonomically.... Apicomplexans display enormous variations in life cycle patterns, physiology, cytology, and biochemistry. There is no consensus on which characteristics should be relied upon to infer phylogenetic relationships. Developmental and ultrastructural features have been used to infer evolutionary relationships among representative genera in the class Sporozoea. However, comparisons of phenotypic characters are qualitative and lack objective quantitative assessment to infer genetic relationships. Sequence similarities between proteins or genes which share a common evolutionary history can be used to infer quantitative phylogenetic relationships. The small subunit (16S-like) rRNAs and their coding regions are especially useful for estimating the extent of genetic relatedness over broad evolutionary ranges."

That paper concludes with the statement that "ribosomal RNA sequence analyses of other apicomplexans are required in order to test the validity of relationships inferred from structures and life cycle patterns." Similarly, we concluded our paper as follows: "Reports based on morphologic features alone may suffer from poor resolution of features needed for classification of closely related organisms. To improve our understanding of the taxonomy of human-associated Cyclospora, molecular evaluation of isolates of additional Cyclospora and Eimeria species, especially other mammalian species, is needed."


Norman J. Pieniazek and Barbara L. Herwaldt

Author affiliations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA



  1. Gajadhar  AA, Marquardt  WC, Hall  R, Gunderson  J, Ariztia-Carmona  EV, Sogin  ML. Ribosomal RNA sequences of Sarcocystis muris, Theileria annulata and Crypthecodinium cohnii reveal evolutionary relationships among apicomplexans, dinoflagellates, and ciliates. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 1991;45:14754. DOIPubMed


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DOI: 10.3201/eid0304.970427

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Table of Contents – Volume 3, Number 4—December 1997

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