Acta Zoologica; 99(2):188-198
Two endemic subterranean freshwater amphipod species have been discovered in groundwater of the volcanic active zone in Iceland, Crangonyx islandicus and Crymostygius thingvallensis. At least five different ciliate sequences were isolated from C. islandicus and the analysis of variation at the 18S ribosomal DNA gene suggests that they present previously unsequenced species, from the orders Apostomatida and Philasterida. Apostome ciliates are well known to be exuviotrophic epibionts on crustaceans. Analyses of ciliate epibionts from different groundwater amphipod species from North America and mainland Europe revealed distinct groups of ciliates and higher diversity on the epigean amphipod Crangonyx pseudogracilis. Analysis of geographic patterns of the most common ciliate within Iceland revealed population differentiation supporting limited current connectivity between the different groundwater systems. Our study reports an occurrence of previously undescribed ciliate species in a groundwater ecosystem characterized by low species diversity.