Myxomycetes–or slime molds–are fascinating lifeforms with a complex life cycle involving a single cell amoeba-like stage followed by multinuclear aggregates, culminating in a fruiting body-like structure with airborne spores restarting the cycle.
In a study of so-called dark-spored slime molds, researchers used DNA metabarcoding to assess the diversity of myxomycetes in the lowland pine forests of Nizhne-Svirskiy Reserve, Russia. Sampling both ground litter and soil in separate study plots representing four different stages after a forest fire, followed by DNA extraction, amplification and sequencing, the authors produced more than 300,000 sequence reads based on myxomycete-specific primers. These sequences clustered to less than 200 operational taxonomic units (OTU), of which the authors identified 15 species and 9 genera.
Comparing identified taxa against GBIF-mediated occurrences, the authors find four species new to the Leningrad region. While the myxomycete composition shifted significantly with the fire history of a plot, the authors were unable to find a clear chronosequence, suggesting that factors shaping assemblages aren't simply a linear product of time passed since a fire.
The study identifies DNA metabarcoding is a useful tool in describing slime mold diversity as invisible amoeba-stage populations are much more widespread than what is reported by recordings of visible fruiting bodies.