Sex in Dictyostelia involves a remarkable form of cannibalism in which zygotes attract large numbers of surrounding amoebae and then ingest them. Before they are consumed, the attracted amoebae help the zygote by synthesising an outer wall around the aggregate that traps them inside and helps to protect the mature developed zygotic structure, the macrocyst. Competition between cells vying to contribute genetically to zygotes and through to the next generation seems likely to have promoted the evolution of several unusual features of dictyostelid sex: individual species often have more than two mating types, increasing haploid cells’ chances of matching with a compatible partner, and fusion of many gametes to form transient syncytia allows cytoplasmic mixing and lateral transmission of mitochondrial genomes. This review will summarise recent advances in our understanding of mating-type determination, gamete fusion, and inheritance in Dictyostelium, and highlight the key gaps in our understanding of this fascinating set of phenomena.
social amoeba, meiosis, syngamy, karyogamy, zygosis