Microbial life histories at sea
Eukaryotic organisms exhibit a broad range of different life cycles typically involving multiple phases connected through sexual or asexual reproduction stages. The assemblage of life phases and reproductive stages is one of its most fundamental features, influencing many aspects of biology of an organism. However, with the exceptions of a few model species and human parasites, very little is known on the life cycle of tiny, single-celled eukaryotes – protists - although they represent the vast majority of the extant eukaryotic diversity. This knowledge gap is largely exemplified in the largest biome of Earth, the global ocean, where an extremely abundant and exceptional diversity of protists comprises the driving force underlying global biogeochemical processes. Our research thus focuses understanding the mechanisms driving the life cycle of marine protists, the functional role of different life cycles and their interplay with abiotic and biotic factors such as for example viruses. We believe that studying single-celled organisms in the context of their life cycle characteristics opens up new opportunities to address fundamental questions about their physiology and cell biology. In turn, this will create a framework for understanding their ecology and evolutionary success as well as their responses to environmental changes.