Major Transitions in the Evolution of Life
For the first three quarters of its life, the Earth was ruled by microbes. Single-celled organisms were responsible for key bio-geochemical cycles that influenced the air, land, seas and climate. Even today, microscopic single-celled organisms comprise the majority of the planet’s biodiversity. Some of these microbes play a central role in the production and cycling of nutrients in terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Others, such as human flora and pathogens, have an important impact on human health. Yet even with the advent of rapid genome-sequencing technologies, it is only recently that researchers began to grasp the true diversity of these microbes, their impact on the environment and the mechanisms by which they evolve. As Canada Research Chair in Comparative Genomics and Evolutionary Bioinformatics, Dr. Andrew Roger is decoding the evolutionary record of life encoded in the genomes of microbes and their multicellular relatives, including humans. Using advanced genomic sequencing methods and new computer-based analysis methods that his group has developed, Roger compares genomes from diverse lineages to determine how they evolved from their single-celled ancestors one or two billion years ago. In doing so, Roger hopes to clarify the mechanisms by which harmless microbes can evolve into disease-causing pathogens, develop resistance to drugs and adapt to changing environments.