Morphologic and molecular data help adopting the insect-pathogenic nephridiophagids (Nephridiophagidae) among the early diverging fungal lineages, close to the Chytridiomycota.
Nephridiophagids are poorly known unicellular eukaryotes, previously of uncertain systematic position, that parasitize the Malpighian tubules of insects. Their life cycle includes merogony with multinucleate plasmodia and sporogony leading to small, uninucleate spores. We examined the phylogenetic affiliations of three species of Nephridiophaga, including one new species, Nephridiophaga maderae, from the Madeira cockroach (Leucophaea maderae). In addition to the specific host, the new species differs from those already known by the size of the spores and by the number of spores within the sporogenic plasmodium. The inferred phylogenetic analyses strongly support a placement of the nephridiophagids in the fungal kingdom near its root and with a close, but unresolved, relationship to the chytids (Chytridiomycota). We found evidence for the nephridiophagidean speciation as being strongly coupled to host speciation.