Class Ascetosporea (Rhizaria; Endomyxa) comprises many parasites of invertebrates. Within this group, recent group‐specific environmental DNA (eDNA) studies have contributed to the establishment of the new order Mikrocytida, a new phylogeny and characterization of Paramyxida, and illuminated the diversity and distribution of haplosporidians. Here, we use general and lineage‐specific PCR primers to investigate the phylogenetic “gap” between haplosporidians and their closest known free‐living relatives, the testate amoeba Gromia and reticulate amoeba Filoreta. Within this gap are Paradinium spp. parasites of copepods, which we show to be highly diverse and widely distributed in planktonic and benthic samples. We reveal a robustly supported radiation of parasites, ENDO‐3, comprised of Paradinium and three further clades (ENDO‐3a, ENDO‐3b and SPP). A further environmental group, ENDO‐2, perhaps comprising several clades, branches between this radiation and the free‐living amoebae. Early diverging haplosporidians were also amplified, often associated with bivalves or deep‐sea samples. The general primer approach amplified an overlapping set of novel lineages within ENDO‐3 and Haplosporida, whereas the group‐specific primer strategy, targeted to amplify from the earliest known divergent haplosporidians to Gromia, generated greater sequence diversity across part of this phylogenetic range.