Colocalisation of glycolysis (green) and mitochondria (red) in Blastocystis. DNA is stained blue. Read more.
E. coli on an agar plate; the green ones are drug resistant and the blue ones are not. Read more.
Our research focus
Within the Evolutionary Biology theme, we use a range of interdisciplinary approaches to understand the evolution of biological systems. These approaches include the study of the evolution of antibiotic resistance, how microbes maximise utilisation of environmental resources, how parasites and symbionts evolve to colonise host environments, how organisms fit on to the tree of life and how cellular, biochemistry and genomic characteristics vary across the tree of life. Our research makes use of a range of methods from microfluidic cell manipulation, mathematical modelling, algorithm development, genomic sequencing, phylogenomics, characterisation of sensory proteins,
manipulating endosymbiotic interactions, to characterising organelle function.
By bringing together diverse cellular, genomic and microbial approaches we aim to understand how evolutionary processes shape the diversification of biological systems.
Recent research highlights
Mitochondrial glycolysis in a major lineage of eukaryotes
Eukaryotes convert the glucose from their food using glycolysis. This pathway is normally located in the cytoplasm. Together with an international team of scientists, Mark van der Giezen and his postdoc Matt Rogers, discovered that a large group of eukaryotes, which includes several important plant and animal pathogens, actually perform half of their glycolysis in the mitochondrion. This discovery opens the way for new drug targets that might help in fighting these important fisheries and crop pathogens.
New insight into the evolution of the nervous system
Pioneering research by an international research team including Gaspar Jekely has given a fascinating fresh insight into how animal nervous systems evolved from simple structures to become the complex network transmitting signals between different parts of the body. Using simple multicellular organisms called Placozoa, the studies reveal the beginnings of the nervous systems found in more complex animals.
Studies provide unique insight into the evolution of cooperation within microbial populations
Microbial cooperation is central to ecological and epidemiological processes. Yet, theory and experiments disagree about the effect of population density on selection for cooperation. Studies led by Ivana Gudelj resolve this problem. The studies provide the first experimental evidence that cooperation can be favoured at high population densities in spatially-structured environments and use mathematics to explain why this result has so far been elusive.
Study reveals how marine diatoms adapt to fluctuating environments
Nick Smirnoff and David Studholme, working with colleagues at our Cornwall campus, studied molecular evolution in the marine diatom, Thalassiosira pseudonana. Diatoms are hugely important for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic chemicals in food-chains; but little is known about their ability to adapt to climate change. This study measured the capacity for adaptation to warming, finding that evolutionary adaptation can be rapid, particularly in fluctuating environments, and was underpinned by major genomic and phenotypic change.