Evolution of Complex Life


CAN Teams: Univ. of Montana, MIT, SETI Inst., U.C. Riverside, USC, Univ. of Colorado

Multiple projects centered around the unifying theme: how do cooperative vs. competitive interactions play out in driving major transitions that occur when independently replicating entities combine into a larger, more complex whole?

Initial project seeks to identify and understand pressures that select specifically for more efficient extracellular electron transfer processes involved in solid-phase mineral oxidation. These studies could provide new insight into how variation in substrate availability (i.e., a selective pressure) might drive physiological diversification to maximize the potential for chemolithotrophic microbial life to arise and persist on rocky worlds.

2015 Director's Discretionary Fund Project

Integrating the Geochemical and Genomic History of the Rise of Oxygen on Earth
Lead Investigator: Greg Fournier (MIT Team)
Co-investigator: Tim Lyons (NAI Alternative Earths Team, University of California Riverside)

The work proposed will investigate evidence for the history of oxygen within the genes and genomes of organismal lineages that persisted through the Great Oxygenation event and the Neoproterozoic event. The investigators propose to study the rate and pattern of the acquisition and loss of genes coding for oxygen-associated enzymes in diverse microbial groups over time, as a proxy for changing oxygen levels on geological timescales. This bioinformatics approach will strongly complement current studies of the rise of oxygen being conducted by the NAI Alternative Earths Team at UC Riverside by providing independent support for specific hypotheses, as well as resolving several currently ambiguous narratives. The project brings together the Evolution of Complex Life Synergy Group with Co-I Lyons and the UC Riverside NAI team and provides support for an early career researcher.