PROTISTA IS WHERE EUKARYOTIC LIFE BEGAN
It was amongst unicellular eukaryotes (protists) that cell genomes developed packaging and compartmentalisation systems that enabled vast increases in size and complexity. It is where endosymbiotic organelles were gained and redefined the metabolism and capabilities of eukaryotes. And it is where the cytoskeleton was developed and elaborated to enable larger and more complex cells and cell behaviours. Protists allow the study of all of these formative evolutionary processes that enabled the development of animals and plants. But protists are also critical components of the modern world, contributing significantly to global primary production, food webs, and also as major parasites of humans, animals, plants and other organisms.
In the Waller lab we are investigating the genomes, organelles, and cytoskeletons of diverse protists. In particular, we focus on the Infrakingdom Alveolata which is a strongly supported alliance of three disparate Phyla: dinoflagellates (photosynthetic algae, essential coral symbionts, micro-predators and parasites), apicomplexans (intracellular parasites including Plasmodium and Toxoplasma) and ciliates (micro-predators and nutrient recyclers). These diverse but related models provide superb opportunities for studying the evolutionary processes that have shaped and defined eukaryotic diversity.
Dinoflagellate Protoperindinium claudicans
Ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila
Apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii