This review presents an overview of the present status of the biology of the myxobacteria, including the molecular biology of the systems that control and regulate myxobacterial gliding movement and morphogenesis. The present status of myxobacterial taxonomy and phylogeny is described. The evolutionary biology of the myxobacteria is emphasized with respect to their social behavior and the molecular basis of their signal chains. Most important within the metabolic physiology are the biologically active secondary metabolites of myxobacteria and their molecular mechanisms of action. The global distribution of myxobacteria in soils is described on the basis of data given in the literature as well as of comprehensive analyses of 1398 soil samples from 64 countries of all continents. The results are analyzed with respect to the spectrum and number of species depending on ecological and habitat-specific factors. The myxobacterial floras of different climate zones are compared. Included are myxobacterial species adapted to extreme biotopes. The efficiency of different methods used presently for isolation of myxobacteria is compared.