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MYCETOZOA (Myxomycetes, Schleimpilze)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 110 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MYCETOZOA (Myxomycetes, Schleimpilze), in zoology, a group of organisms reproducing themselves by spores. These are produced in or on sporangia which are formed in the air and the spores are distributed by the currents of air. They thus differ from other spore-bearing members of the animal kingdom (which produce their spores while immersed in water or, in the case of parasites, within the fluids of their hosts), and resemble the Fungi and many of the lower green plants. In relation with this condition of their fructification the structures formed at the spore-bearing stage to contain or support the spores present a remarkable resemblance to the sporangia of certain groups of Fungi, from which, however, the Mycetozoa are essentially different. Although the sporangial and some other phases have long been known, and Fries had enumerated 192 species in 1829, the main features of their life-history were first worked out in 1859–186o by de Bary (1 and 2). He showed that in the Mycetozoa the spore hatches out as a mass of naked protoplasm which almost immediately assumes a free-swimming flagellate form (zoospore), that after multiplying by division this passes into an amoeboid phase, and that from such amoebae the plasmodia arise, though the mode of their origin was not ascertained by him. The plasmodium of the Mycetozoa is a mass of simple protoplasm, without a differentiated envelope and endowed with the power of active locomotion. It penetrates the interstices of decaying vegetable matter, or, in the case of the species Badhamia utricularis, spreads as a film on the surface of living fungi; it may grow almost indefinitely in size, attaining under favourable conditions several feet in extent. It constitutes the dominant phase of the life-history. From the plasmodium the sporangia take their origin. It was Cienkowski who (in 1863) contributed the important fact that the plasmodia arise by the fusion with one another of numbers of individuals in the amoeboid phase—a mode of origin which is now generally recognized as an essential feature in the conception of a plasmodium, whether as occurring among the Mycetozoa or in other groups (7). De Bary clearly expressed the view that the life-history of the Mycetozoa shows them to belong not to the vegetable but to the animal kingdom. The individual sporangia of the Mycetozoa are, for the most part, minute structures, rarely attaining the size of a mustard-seed, though, in the composite form of aethalia, they may form cake-like masses an inch or more across (fig. 21). They are found, stalked or sessile, in small clusters or distributed by the thousand over a wide area many feet in diameter, on the bark of decaying trees, on dead leaves or sticks, in woods and shrubberies, among the stems of plants on wet moors, and, generally, at the surface in localities where there is a substratum of decaying vegetable matter sufficiently moist to allow the plasmodium to live. Tan-heaps have long been known as a favourite habitat of Fuligo septica, the plasmodia of which, emerging in bright yellow masses at the surface prior to the sporangial (in this case aethalial) phase, are known as " flowers of tan." Thefilm-like, expanded condition of the plasmodium, varying in colour in different species and traversed by a network of vein-like channels (fig. 5), has long been known. The plasmodial stage was at one time regarded as representing a distinct group of fungi, to which the generic name Mesenterica was applied. The species of Mycetozoa are widely distributed over the world in temperate and tropical latitudes where there is sufficient moisture for them to grow, and they must be regarded as not inconsiderable agents in the disintegrating processes of nature, by which complex organic substances are decomposed into simpler and more stable chemical groups. Classification.—The Mycetozoa, as here understood, fall into three main divisions. The Endosporeae, in which the spores are contained within sporangia, form together with the Exosporeae, which bear their spores on the surface of sporophores, a natural group characterized by forming true plasmodia. They constitute the Euplasmodida. Standing apart from them is the small group of the mould-like Sorophora, in which the amoeboid individuals only come together immediately prior to spore-formation and do not completely fuse with one another. A number of other organisms living on vegetable and animal bodies, alive or dead, and leading an entirely aquatic life, are included by Zopf (31) under the Mycetozoa, as the " Monadina," in distinction from the " Eumycetozoa," consisting of the three groups above mentioned. The alliance of some of these (e.g. Protomonas) with the Mycetozoa is probable, and was accepted by de Bary, but the relations of other Monadina are obscure, and appear to be at least as close with the Heliozoa (with which many have in fact been classed). The limits here adopted, following de Bary, include a group of organisms which, as shown by their life-history, belong to the animal stock, and yet alone among animals' they have acquired the habit, widely found in the vegetable kingdom, of developing and distributing their spores in air. Class MYCETOZOA. Sub-class I.—EUPLASMODIDA 2 Division I. Endosporeae. Cohort 1.—Amaurosporales. Sub-cohort I.—Calcarineae. Order I. Physaraceae. Genera: Badhamia, Physarum, Physarella, Trichamphora, Erionema, Cienkowskia, Fuligo, Craterium, Leocar pus, Chondrioderma, Diachaea. Order 2. Didymiaceae. Genera: Didymium, Spumaria, Lepidoderma. Sub-cohort 2.—Amaurochaetineae. Order 1. Stemonitaceae. Genera: Stemonitis, Comatricha, Ener- thenema, Echinostelium, Lamproderma, Clastoderma. Order 2. Amaurochaetaceae. Genera: Amaurochaete, Brefeldia. Cohort 2.—Lamprosporales. Sub-cohort I.—Anemineae. Order 1. Heterodermaceae. Genera: Lindbladia, Cribraria, Dictydium. Order 2. Licaeceae. Genera : Licea, Orcadella. Order 3. Tubulinaceae. Genera: Tubulina, Siphoptychium, Alwisia. Order 4. Reticulariaceae. Genera: Dictydiaethalium, Enteridium, Reticularia. Order 5. Lycogalaceae. Genus: Lycogala. Sub-cohort 2.—Calonemineae. Order 1. Trichiaceae. Genera: Trichia, Oligonema, Hemitrichia, Cornuvia. Order 2. Arcyriaceae. Genera: Arcyria, Lachnobolus, Perichaena. Order 3. Margaritaceae. Genera: Margarita, Dianema, Prototrichia, Listerella. Division 2. Exosporeae. Order I. Ceratiomyxaceae. Genus: Ceratiomyxa. Sub-class 2.—SOROPHORA. Order 1. Guttulinaceae. Genera: Copromyxa, Guttulina, Gultulinopsis. Order 2. Dictyosteliaceae. Genera: Dictyostelium, Acrasis, Poly sphondylium. ' Bursulla, a member of Zopf's Monadina, likewise forms its spores in air. 2 The classification of the Euplasmodida here given is that of A. and G. Lister (22), the outcome of a careful study of the group extending over more than twenty-five years. The writer of this article desires to express his indebtedness to the opportunities he has had of becoming familiar with the work of his father, Mr A. Lister, F.R.S., whose views on the affinities and life-history of the Mycetozoa he has endeavoured herein to summarize. LIFE-HISTORY OF THE MYCETOZOA EUPLASMODIDA Endosporeae. We may begin our survey of the life-history at the point where the spores, borne on currents of air, have settled among wet decaying vegetable matter. Shrunken when dry, they rapidly absorb water and resume the spherical shape which is found in nearly all species. Each is surrounded by a spore wall, sheltered by which the protoplasm, though losing moisture by drying, may remain alive for as many as four years. In several cases it has been found to give the chemical reaction of cellulose. It is smooth or variously sculptured according to the species. Within the protoplasm may be seen the nucleus, and one or more contractile vacuoles make their appearance. After the spore has lain in water for a period varying from a few hours to a day or two the wall bursts and the contained protoplasm slips out and lies free in the water as a minute colourless mass, presenting amoeboid movements (fig. c). It soon assumes an elongated piriform shape, and a flagellum is developed at the narrow end, attaining a length equal to the rest of the body. The minute zoospore, thus equipped, swims away with a characteristic dancing motion. The protoplasm is granular within but hyaline externally (fig. 1, d). The nucleus, lying at the end of the body where it tapers into the flagellum, is limited by a definite wall and contains a nuclear network and a nucleolus. It often presents the appearance of being drawn out into a point towards the flagellum, and a bell-like structure [first described by Plenge (27)j, staining more darkly than the rest of the protoplasm, extends from the base of the flagellum and invests the nucleus (fig 2, a and c). The other end of the zoospore may be evenly rounded (fig. 1, d) or it may be produced into short pseudo-podia (fig. i, e). By means of these a, the zoospore captures bacteria panicea, stained. contractile vacuole is also present In a and c the bell-like strut- near the hind end. Considerable ture Investing the nucleus is movement may be observed among clearly seen. the granules of the interior, and in the large zoospores of Amaurochaete atra this may amount to an actual streaming, though without the rhythm characteristic of the plasmodial stage. Other shapes may be temporarily assumed by the zoospore. Attaching itself to an object it may become amoeboid, either with (fig. 1,f) or without (fig. 2, c) the temporary retraction of the flagellum; or it may take an elongated slug-like shape and creep with the flagellum extended in front, with tactile and apparently exploratory movements. That the zoospores of many species of the Endosporeae feed on bacteria has been shown by A. Lister (18). New light has recently been thrown on the matter by Pinoy (26), who has worked chiefly with Sorophora, in which, as shown below, the active phase of the life-history is passed I Figures 1, 4, and 11–22 are from the British Museum Guide to the British Mycetozoa. The other figures are from Lankester's Treatise on Zoology, part t. Introduction and Protozoa. Fascicle 1. Article Mycetozoa.mainly in the state of isolated amoebae. Pinoy finds that the amoebae of this group live on particular species of bacteria, and that the presence of the latter is a necessary condition for the develop-' ment of the Sorophora, and even (as has been recognized by other workers) for the hatching of their spores. Pinoy's results indicate, though not so conclusively, that bacteria are likewise the essential food of the Euplasmodida in the early phases of their life-history. The zoospores do, however, ingest other solid bodies, e.g. carmine granules (Saville Kent, tg). The zoospores multiply by binary fission, the flagellum being withdrawn and the nucleus undergoing mitotic division, with the formation of a well-marked achromatic spindle (fig. 3). , It is probable that fission occurs more than once in the zoospore . stage; but there is not satisfactory evidence to show how often it may be repeated? At this, as at other phases of the life-history, a resting stage may be assumed as the result of drying, but also from other and unknown causes. The flagel- lum is withdrawn and the protoplasm, becoming spherical, secretes a cyst wall. The organism thus passes into the condition of a microcyst, from which when dry it may be awakened to renewed activity by wetting. At the end of the zoospore stage the organism finally withdraws its flagellum and assumes the amoeboid shape. It is now known as an amoebula. The amoebulae become endowed, as was first recognized by Cienkowski, with mutual attraction, and on After A. Lister. meeting fuse with one another. Fig. 4 represents a group of such amoebulae. Several have already united to form a common mass, to which others, still free, are con-verging. The protoplasmic mass thus arising is the plasmodium. The fusion between the protoplasmic bodies of the amoebulae which unite to form it is complete. Their nuclei may be traced for some time in the young plasmodium and no fusion between them has been observed at this stage (20). As the plasmodium increases in size by the addition of amoebulae the task of following the fate of the individual nuclei by direct observation becomes impossible. The appearance of an active plasmodium of Badhamia utricularis, which, as we have seen, lives and feeds on certain fungi, is shown in fig. g. It consists of a film of protoplasm, of a bright yellow colour, varying in size up to a foot or more in diameter. It is traversed by a network of branching and anastomosingchannels, which divide up and are gradually lost as they approach the margin where the, protoplasm forms a uniform and lobate border. Elsewhere the main trunks of the network may lie free with little or no connecting film between them and their neighbours. The plasmodia of other species, which live in the interstices of decaying vegetable matter, are less easily observed, but on emerging on the surface prior to 2 Pinoy states (26) that the spores of Spumaria alba, cultivated with bacteria on solid media, hatch out into amoebae, which under these conditions do not assume the flagellate stage. The amoeba from a spore was observed to give rise by three successive divisions to eight amoebulae. After A. Lister. a, The unruptured spore. b, The protoplasmic contents of the spore emerging. It contains a nucleus with the (light) nucleolus, and a contractile vacuole (shaded). c, The same, free from the spore wall. d, Zoospore, with nucleus at the base of the flagellum, and contractile vacuole. e, A zoospore with pseudopodial processes at the posterior end, to one of which a bacillus adheres. Two digestive vacuoles in the interior contain ingested bacilli. f, Amoeboid phase flagellum. with retracted a °yJb After A. Lister. spore formation they present an essentially similar appearance. There is, however, great variety in the degree of concentration or expansion presented by plasmodia, in relation with food supply, moisture and other circumstances. The plasmodia move slowly about over on in the substratum, concentrating in regions where food supply is abundant, and leaving those where it is exhausted. On examining under the microscope a film which has spread over a cover-slip, the channels are seen to be streams of rapidly moving granular protoplasm. This movement is rhythmic to character, being directed alternately towards the margin of an advancing region of the plasmodium, and away from it. As a channel is watched the stream of granules is seen to become slower, and after a momentary pause to begin in the opposite direction. In an active plasmodium the duration of the flow in either direction varies from a minute and a half to two minutes, though it is always longer when in the direction of the general advance over the substratum. When the flow of the protoplasm is in this latter direction the border be-comes turgid, and lobes of hyaline protoplasm are seen (under a high magnification) to start forward, and soon to become filled with granular contents. When the flow is reversed, the margin becomes thin from the drainage away of its contents. A delicate hyaline layer invests the plasmodium, and is apparently less fluid than the material flowing in the channels. The phenomena of the rhythmic movement of the protoplasm are not inconsistent with the view that they result from alternating contraction and relaxation of the outer layer in different regions of the plasmodium, but any dogmatic statement as to their causation appears at present inadvisable. a, Part of a stained Plasmodium of Badhamia vtricularis. n, Nuclei. b, Nuclei, some in process of simple (amitotic) division. c, Part of a Plasmodium in which the nuclei are in simultaneous mitotic division. df, Other stages in this process. Minute contractile vacuoles may be seen in great numbers in the thin parts of the plasmodium between the channels. In stained preparations nuclei, varying (in Badhamia utricularis) from 2.5 to 5 micrornillimeters in diameter, are found abundantly in the granular protoplasm (fig. 6, b). They contain a nuclear reticulum and one or more well-marked nucleoli. In any stained plasmodium some nuclei may be found, as shown in the figure b, which appear to be in some stage of simple (amitotic) division, and this is, presumably, the chief mode in which the number of the nuclei keeps pace with the rapidly growing plasmodium. There is, however, another mode of nuclear division in the plasmodium which has hitherto been observed in one recorded instance (19, p. 541), the mitotic (fig. 6, c f), and this appears to befall all the nuclei of a plasmodium simultaneously. What the relation of these two modes of nuclear division may be to the life-history is obscure. That the amitotic is the usual mode of nuclear division is indicated by the very frequent occurrence of these apparently dividing nuclei and also by the following experiment. A plasmodium of Badhamia utricularis spreading over pieces of the fungus Auricularia was observed to increase in size about fourfold in fourteen hours, and during this time a small sample was removed and stained every quarter of an hour. The later stainings showed no diminution in the number of nuclei in proportion to the protoplasm, and yet none of the sample showed any sign of mitotic division (20, p. 9). It would appear therefore that the mode of increase of the nuclei during this period was amitotic. Prowazek (28) has recently referred to nuclear stages, similar to those here regarded as of amitotic division, but has interpreted them as nuclear fusions. He does not, however, discuss the mode of multiplication of nuclei in the plasmodium. In the group of the Calcareae, granules of carbonate of lime are abundant in the plasmodia, and in all Mycetozoa other granules of undetermined nature are present. The colour of plasmodia varies in different species, and may be yellow, white, pink, purple or green. The colouring matter is in the form of minute drops, and in the Calcareae these invest the lime granules. Nutrition.—The plasmodium of Badhamia utricularis, advancing over the pilei of suitable fungi, feeds on the superficial layer dissolving the walls of the hyphae (17). The protoplasm may be seen to contain abundant foreign bodies such as spores of fungi or sclerotium cysts (vide infra) which have been taken in and are undergoing digestion. It has been found experimentally (It) that pieces of coagulated proteids are likewise taken in and digested in vacuoles. On the other hand it has been found that plasmodia will live, ultimately producing sporangia, in nutrient solutions (9).1 It would appear therefore that the nutrition of plasmodia is effected in part by the ingestion of solid foodstuffs, and in part by the absorption of material in solution, and that there is great variety in the complexity of the substances which serve as their food. Sclerotium.—As the result of drought, the plasmodium, having become much denser by loss of water, passes into the sclerotial condition. Drawing together into a , .~ thickish layer, the protoplasm divides m°l up into a number of distinct masses, ~'. • w.~~':~`:.-•each containing some to to 20 nuclei, End of Article: MYCETOZOA (Myxomycetes, Schleimpilze)

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