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Protist evolution at the dry limit

Research areas: Protistology, ecology, microbiome, aquatic ecology, evolutionary ecology

Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Hartmut Ernst-Albert Arndt, Prof. Dr. Thomas Wiehe


Project Info

Unicellular eukaryotes are potentially fast evolving organisms. The small size of protists, their ability to form cysts as well as their adaptability to extreme conditions allow them to associate to endemic animals, plants, saline lakes and soil even in extremely arid systems. These properties make unicellular eukaryotes ideal model organisms to combine studies on evolutionary processes connected with the evolution of very different groups of organisms and across very different time scales comprising even geological time scales. The hyperaridic Atacama Desert offers a study area unique on earth, where conditions have been constant for millions of years.

The first aim of the project is to compare patterns of population genetic diversity of symbiotic protists associated to the gut of endemic insect populations, which are genetically separated to varying degrees, with those of their host populations (project B02). The second aim is the analysis of protist populations associated to the specific microbiome (B04) and the root systems of endemic desert plants (B01, B05). Third, we will analyse protist populations which are endemic to salars in the Atacama known for extremely high salinities and highly fragmented habitats surrounded by a nearly sterile desert (clusters A, C, D). We will use state of the art molecular and bioinformatic tools, as well as modern cultivation and isolation techniques and morphological characterizations, to explore evolutionary and co-evolutionary processes of populations and species in extremely arid environments. Close co-operation with entomologists (B2), botanists (B1), microbiologists (B04) and soil specialists (B05) as well as geologists (clusters A, C, D) and local cooperations in Antofagasta offer an extraordinary backbone for the studies.

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Prof. Dr. Tibor J. Dunai
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne
Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3229 | tdunai@uni-koeln.de
  Managing Director:
Christian Tiede
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-89833 | christian.tiede@uni-koeln.de
  Deputy Speaker:
Prof. Dr. Martin Melles
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49a | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-2262 | mmelles@uni-koeln.de
Tim Schlüter
Institute of Geography | University of Cologne

Otto-Fischer-Str. 4 | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3735 | webmaster@sfb1211.de
© 2018 CRC1211 - Earth - Evolution at the Dry Limit