Myxomycete diversity and distribution from the fossil record to the present
Biomedical and Life Sciences
The myxomycetes (plasmodial slime molds or myxogastrids) are a group of eukaryotic microorganisms usually present and sometimes abundant in terrestrial ecosystems. Evidence from molecular studies suggests that the myxomycetes have a significant evolutionary history. However, due to the fragile nature of the fruiting body, fossil records of the group are exceedingly rare. Although most myxomycetes are thought to have very large distributional ranges and many species appear to be cosmopolitan or nearly so, results from recent studies have provided evidence that spatial distribution patterns of these organisms can be successfully related to (1) differences in climate and/or vegetation on a global scale and (2) the ecological differences that exist for particular habitats on a local scale. A detailed examination of the global distribution of four examples (Barbeyella minutissima, Ceratiomyxa morchella, Leocarpus fragilis and Protophysarum phloiogenum) demonstrates that these species have recognizable distribution patterns in spite of the theoretical ability of their spores to bridge continents.