Symbiosis describes how different organisms can “live together,” often to mutual benefit. By sharing cellular goods and services, symbioses have evolved to solve problems that individual organisms would not be able to tackle on their own. For example, lichens are composed of fungi and algae that, on their own, resemble microbes, but together form intricate macroscopic architectures that are particularly well-suited for photosynthesis and ventilation.
Scientists don’t know how all organisms achieve these structures, but Dr. Toby Spribille, Canada Research Chair in Symbiosis, is trying to find out. He and his research team are combining genomics, microscopy and bioinformatics to understand how lichens form 3D architectures during their development and evolution. Solving this mystery could be a major step toward understanding how microbes organize themselves.