This study represents the first extended report on a species of the ciliate genus Peritromus, widespread in marine biotopes, characterized by a dorso-ventral differentiation peculiar among Heterotrichea. Morphological observations (live, stained, scanning, and transmission electron microscope) were combined with behavioral and molecular data. On the basis of the whole body of observations, the species was recognized as Peritromus kahli. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy have revealed a number of features such as peculiar chalice-like structures external to the dorsal surface, two types of extrusomes, and differences between dorsal and ventral somatic ciliature. The almost complete SSrDNA gene sequence was also determined. A molecular phylogenetic analysis indicated that Peritromus diverged early from other members of the Class Heterotrichea. The dorso-ventral differentiation that certainly influences the behavior of P. kahli (e.g. preference for crawling and thigmotaxis) may have been selected as an adaptation to the constraints of the interstitial habitat.
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Vol. 51 • No. 1