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Orange elephant ear sponge, Agelas clathrodes, in foreground. Two corals in the background: a sea fan, Iciligorgia schrammi, and a sea rod, Plexaurella nutans.
Scientific classification e
Domain: Eukaryota
(unranked): Unikonta
Cavalier-Smith, 2002


  • Amorphea Adl et al., 2012
  • Opimoda Derelle et al., 2015
  • Podiata Cavalier-Smith, 2012

Unikonts or Amorphea are members of a taxonomic supergroup that includes the Amoebozoa and its sister clade, the Opisthokonta, which includes the Fungi, Animals and the Choanomonada, or Choanoflagellates. The taxonomic affinities of the members of this clade were originally described and proposed by Thomas Cavalier-Smith.[1][2]

The International Society of Protistologists, the recognised body for taxonomy of protozoa, recommended in 2012 that the term Unikont be changed to Amorphea because the name "Unikont" is based upon a hypothesized synapomorphy that the ISP authors and other scientists later rejected.[3][4]

It includes amoebozoa, opisthokonts,[5][6] and possibly Apusozoa.[7]

Taxonomic revisions within this group[edit]

Cavalier-Smith has proposed two new phyla: Sulcozoa which consists of the subphyla Apusozoa (Apusomonadida, Breviatea) and Varisulca which includes the subphyla Diphyllatea, Discocelida, Mantamonadida, Planomonadida and Rigifilida.[8] The validity of this proposed taxonomy has yet to ruled upon by the Society of Protistologists.

Further work by Cavalier-Smith has shown that Sulcozoa is paraphyletic.[9] Apusozoa also appears to be paraphyetic. Varisulca has been redefined to include planomonads, Mantamonas and Collodictyon. A new taxon has been created - Glissodiscea - for the planomonads and Mantamonas. Again the validity of this revised taxonomy awaits approval by the Society.

Amoebozoa seems to be monophyetic[10] with two major branches: Conosa and Lobosa. Conosa is divided into the aerobic infraphylum Semiconosia (Mycetozoa and Variosea) and secondarily anaerobic Archamoebae. Lobosa consists entirely of non-flagellated lobose amoebae and has been divided into into two classes: Discosea which have flattened cells and Tubulinea with predominantly tube-shaped pseudopodia.


The group includes eukaryotic cells that, for the most part, have a single emergent flagellum, or are amoebae with no flagella. The unikonts include opisthokonts (animals, fungi, and related forms) and Amoebozoa. By contrast other well-known eukaryotic groups, which more often have two emergent flagella (although there are many exceptions) are often referred to as bikonts. Bikonts include Archaeplastida (plants and relatives), Excavata, Rhizaria, and Chromalveolata.


The unikonts have a triple-gene fusion that is lacking in the bikonts. The three genes that are fused together in the unikonts, but not bacteria or bikonts, encode enzymes for synthesis of the pyrimidine nucleotides: carbamoyl phosphate synthase, dihydroorotase, aspartate carbamoyltransferase. This must have involved a double fusion, a rare pair of events, supporting the shared ancestry of Opisthokonta and Amoebozoa.

Cavalier-Smith [1] originally proposed that unikonts ancestrally had a single flagellum and single basal body. This is unlikely, however, as flagellated opisthokonts, as well as some flagellated Amoebozoa, including Breviata, actually have two basal bodies, as in typical 'bikonts' (even though only one is flagellated in most unikonts). This paired arrangement can also be seen in the organization of centrioles in typical animal cells. In spite of the name of the group, the common ancestor of all 'unikonts' was probably a cell with two basal bodies.


  1. ^ a b Cavalier-Smith T (March 2002). "The phagotrophic origin of eukaryotes and phylogenetic classification of Protozoa". Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 52 (Pt 2): 297–354. doi:10.1099/00207713-52-2-297. PMID 11931142. 
  2. ^ Cavalier-Smith, Thomas (2003). "Protist phylogeny and the high-level classification of Protozoa". European Journal of Protistology 39 (4): 338–348. doi:10.1078/0932-4739-00002. 
  3. ^ Adl SM, Simpson AG, Lane CE, Lukeš J, Bass D, Bowser SS, Brown MW, Burki F, Dunthorn M, Hampl V, Heiss A, Hoppenrath M, Lara E, Le Gall L, Lynn DH, McManus H, Mitchell EA, Mozley-Stanridge SE, Parfrey LW, Pawlowski J, Rueckert S, Shadwick RS, Schoch CL, Smirnov A, Spiegel FW (2012). "The revised classification of eukaryotes". J Eukaryot Microbiol 59 (5): 429–93. doi:10.1111/j.1550-7408.2012.00644.x. PMC 3483872. PMID 23020233. 
  4. ^ Roger AJ, Simpson AG (2009). "Evolution: revisiting the root of the eukaryote tree". Current Biology 19 (4): R165–R167. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.12.032. PMID 19243692. 
  5. ^ A Minge M, Silberman JD, Orr RJ, et al. (November 2008). "Evolutionary position of breviate amoebae and the primary eukaryote divergence". Proc. Biol. Sci. 276 (1657): 597–604. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1358. PMC 2660946. PMID 19004754. 
  6. ^ Burki F, Pawlowski J (October 2006). "Monophyly of Rhizaria and multigene phylogeny of unicellular bikonts". Mol. Biol. Evol. 23 (10): 1922–30. doi:10.1093/molbev/msl055. PMID 16829542. 
  7. ^ Glücksman E, Snell EA, Berney C, Chao EE, Bass D, Cavalier-Smith T (September 2010). "The Novel Marine Gliding Zooflagellate Genus Mantamonas (Mantamonadida ord. n.: Apusozoa)". Protist 162 (2): 207–221. doi:10.1016/j.protis.2010.06.004. PMID 20884290. 
  8. ^ Cavalier-Smith T (2013). "Early evolution of eukaryote feeding modes, cell structural diversity, and classification of the protozoan phyla Loukozoa, Sulcozoa, and Choanozoa". Eur J Protistol 49 (2): 115–78. doi:10.1016/j.ejop.2012.06.001. 
  9. ^ Cavalier-Smith T, Chao EE, Snell EA, Berney C, Fiore-Donno AM, Lewis R (2014). "Multigene eukaryote phylogeny reveals the likely protozoan ancestors of opisthokonts (animals, fungi, choanozoans) and Amoebozoa". Mol Phylogenet Evol 81: 71–85. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.08.012. 
  10. ^ Cavalier-Smith T, Fiore-Donno AM, Chao E, Kudryavtsev A, Berney C, Snell EA, Lewis R (2015). "Multigene phylogeny resolves deep branching of Amoebozoa". Mol Phylogenet Evol 83: 293–304. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.08.011. 
  11. ^ Phylogeny based on:

External links[edit]