Mycetozoa, characterized by spore-bearing fruiting bodies, are the most diverse Amoebozoa. They traditionally comprise three taxa: Myxogastria, Dictyostelia and Protostelia. Myxogastria and Dictyostelia typically have multispored fruiting bodies, but controversy exists whether they are related or arose independently from different unicellular ancestors. Protostelid slime moulds, with single-spored fruiting bodies, are possible evolutionary intermediates between them and typical amoebae, but have received almost no molecular study. Protostelid morphology is so varied that they might not be monophyletic. We therefore provide 38 new 18S rRNA and/or EF-1alpha gene sequences from Mycetozoa and related species, including four protostelids and the enigmatic Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. Phylogenetic analyses support the monophyly of Dictyostelia, Myxogastria, and Ceratiomyxa (here collectively called "macromycetozoa") and show that protostelids are Amoebozoa, mostly related to non-fruiting amoebae of the class Variosea, but may not be monophyletic; some phylogenetic relationships remain poorly resolved. Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, originally regarded as a myxogastrid, but in recent decades included in Protostelia, is a deeply diverging sister to Myxogastria. The protostelids studied here plus varipodid amoebae and the flagellates Phalansterium and Multicilia together probably form the outgroup to macromycetozoa plus Archamoebae. Thus protostelids and Variosea are especially significant for understanding the evolutionary transition from solitary amoebae to macromycetozoa.
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