A resurgence in field research is essential to better understand the diversity, ecology, and evolution of microbial eukaryotes. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The discovery and characterization of protist communities from diverse environments are crucial for understanding the overall evolutionary history of life on earth. However, major questions about the diversity, ecology, and evolutionary history of protists remain unanswered, notably because data obtained from natural protist communities, especially of heterotrophic species, remain limited. In this review, we discuss the challenges associated with "field protistology", defined here as the exploration, characterization, and interpretation of microbial eukaryotic diversity within the context of natural environments or field experiments, and provide suggestions to help fill this important gap in knowledge. We also argue that increased efforts in field studies that combine molecular and microscopical methods offer the most promising path toward (1) the discovery of new lineages that expand the tree of eukaryotes; (2) the recognition of novel evolutionary patterns and processes; (3) the untangling of ecological interactions and functions, and their roles in larger ecosystem processes; and (4) the evaluation of protist adaptations to a changing climate.

publication date

  • March 2014