Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Evolutionary Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

An expanded phylogeny of social amoebas (Dictyostelia) shows increasing diversity and new morphological patterns

Maria Romeralo1*, James C Cavender2, John C Landolt3, Steven L Stephenson4 and Sandra L Baldauf1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Systematic Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Norbyvägen 18D, University of Uppsala, SE-75236 Uppsala, Sweden

2 Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA

3 Department of Biology, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV 25443, USA

4 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:84  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-84

Published: 31 March 2011

Abstract

Background

Social Amoebae or Dictyostelia are eukaryotic microbes with a unique life cycle consisting of both uni- and multicellular stages. They have long fascinated molecular, developmental and evolutionary biologists, and Dictyostelium discoideum is now one of the most widely studied eukaryotic microbial models. The first molecular phylogeny of Dictyostelia included most of the species known at the time and suggested an extremely deep taxon with a molecular depth roughly equivalent to Metazoa. The group was also shown to consist of four major clades, none of which correspond to traditional genera. Potential morphological justification was identified for three of the four major groups, on the basis of which tentative names were assigned.

Results

Over the past four years, the Mycetozoan Global Biodiversity Survey has identified many new isolates that appear to be new species of Dictyostelia, along with numerous isolates of previously described species. We have determined 18S ribosomal RNA gene sequences for all of these new isolates. Phylogenetic analyses of these data show at least 50 new species, and these arise from throughout the dictyostelid tree breaking up many previously isolated long branches. The resulting tree now shows eight well-supported major groups instead of the original four. The new species also expand the known morphological diversity of the previously established four major groups, violating nearly all previously suggested deep morphological patterns.

Conclusions

A greatly expanded phylogeny of Dictyostelia now shows even greater morphological plasticity at deep taxonomic levels. In fact, there now seem to be no obvious deep evolutionary trends across the group. However at a finer level, patterns in morphological character evolution are beginning to emerge. These results also suggest that there is a far greater diversity of Dictyostelia yet to be discovered, including novel morphologies.