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Not all free-living microorganisms have cosmopolitan distributions – the case of Nebela (Apodera) vas Certes (Protozoa: Amoebozoa: Arcellinida)

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Abstract Aim 

To review and critically assess the evidence that the testate amoeba species Nebela vas does not have a cosmopolitan distribution, in contradiction to the paradigm of microbial distribution that ‘everything is everywhere’. Location 

Terrestrial and wetland habitats world-wide. Methods 

Relevant data were assembled on the morphology, ecology and global geographical distribution of N.┬ávas from a comprehensive literature review of published original records. The data were collated, analysed and summarized. The roles of long-term and short-term agents of dispersal are discussed. Results 

A clear and repeated pattern has been elucidated of a microbial species, with a distinctive and unmistakeable morphology, that inhabits acid, damp terrestrial and wetland habitats in the southern cool-temperate and sub-Antarctic zones – including similar high-altitude habitats in the Tropics. It is almost entirely confined to the Gondwanaland continents and Southern Hemisphere islands. It is definitively absent from Holarctic regions. It is proposed that the continental distribution of N.┬ávas is a consequence of continental drift following its original speciation in the Mesozoic or earlier, whereas its distribution on sub-Antarctic islands (glaciated in the Pleistocene) has been effected by dispersal from South America by wind around the Southern Ocean. Main conclusion 

Nebela vas is a proven instance of a microbial species that does not have a cosmopolitan distribution.

Keywords: Agents of dispersal; Nebela vas; global distribution; lacunae in distribution; microbial biogeography; testate amoebae

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Environmental Sciences, James Starley Building, Coventry University, Coventry CV1 5FB, UK and 2: Biological and Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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