New Slime Mold Species Named for Math Instructor

Fruiting bodies of Dictyostelium barbarae. Dictyostelds are small, and the scale bar in the image represents one millimeter, about the thickness of a dime.
Photo submitted

Fruiting bodies of Dictyostelium barbarae. Dictyostelds are small, and the scale bar in the image represents one millimeter, about the thickness of a dime.

In May 2017, Steve Stephenson, a research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and his wife Barbara Stephenson, a U of A math instructor, visited Christmas Island, an Australian territory located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 200 miles south of Java and Sumatra. Christmas Island was so named when Captain William Mynors of the Royal Mary, an English East India Company vessel, sailed past it on Christmas Day in 1643.

The Stephensons were there to collect slime molds, a group of fungus-like organisms. Steve Stephenson has traveled the globe collecting slime molds and is considered one of the world's foremost experts on them. He has long been interested in studying slime molds on isolated islands, with the goal of developing a better understanding of their long-distance dispersal. He is particularly interested in myxomycetes, also called plasmodial slime molds, but he also studies dictyostelid cellular slime molds, usually referred to simply as dictyostelids.

While on Christmas Island, Stephenson collected soil samples to look for the presence of dictyostelids. To his surprise, he discovered two species that are new to science.

Discovering a new species is not a new experience for Stephenson; he and his research colleagues have discovered and named more than 100 species of slime molds. This time, however, Stephenson named one of the new species after his wife, who has accompanied him on collecting trips all over the world.

Thus, the newly described species of dictyostelid was named Dictyostelium barbarae, which formally appeared in the journal mSphere, the official publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

Steve coauthored the paper with Pu Liu, a mycologist at Jilin Agricultural University in China. Liu spent the 2015-16 academic year at the University of Arkansas working with Steve after receiving a fellowship from the government of China. 

Contacts

Steven Lee Stephenson, visiting professor
Biological Sciences
479-575-2869, slsteph@uark.edu

Bob Whitby, feature writer
University Relations
479-575-4737, whitby@uark.edu

Headlines

First Footage From Historic KATV News Film Archive Now Available Online

The Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History was able to digitize the material thanks to a gift from the Tyson Family Foundation.

Transit and Parking Reminders for Campus at the Approach of the First Day of Classes

This checklist will help you with campus transportation needs at the beginning of the semester and throughout the year.

UARK Cardinal Nights Is Back This Friday

Calling all Razorbacks, new and old! Join us on Friday, Aug. 23, from 8 p.m. to midnight on the Arkansas Union Mall for the first UARK Cardinal Nights of the school year!

2019-20 Choral Ensembles Open to All Students on Campus

Auditions and enrollment are open now for the Collegiate Chorale, Schola Cantorum, Inspirational Chorale and Chamber Choir for interested students from all majors.

Author of UA Press's 'Hipbillies' to Speak at Fayetteville Roots Festival

Jared Phillips will be part of a panel that discusses the counterculture movement in the Ozarks in the 1970s.

Newswire Daily