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The deep seafloor covers around 70% of our planet’s surface and is home to a diverse community of microorganisms, mostly bacteria. These single-cell life forms inhabit some of the most extreme places in the world, with freezing waters, permanent darkness, high pressure and little food. ERC grantee Antje Boetius studies these microbes in the abyss and their important role for the Earth’s nutrient cycles.
Honey bees are an important species for ecology and economy, but their population has shrank worryingly. Prof. Philipp Engel focuses on gut microbiota, a critical factor for bee health, to understand how it evolved and diversified over time. His study addresses timely questions about evolution, ecology, microbiology and could eventually contribute to new strategies for managing bee colonies’ health.
Bacteria fight big. When they meet competitors, they are as aggressive and bloodthirsty as they come. ERC grantee Kevin Foster studies how bacteria wage war against each other. His aim is to understand what led to the evolution of such extreme competitive behaviours, and how to exploit them for our own health.
Our soils are inhabited by millions of microorganisms; however, the majority of them lay dormant. In her ERC project, Prof. Dagmar Woebken explores the mechanisms that allow soil microorganisms to go into dormancy and thus survive unfavorable conditions. It is further the goal to reveal the environmental signals that lead to their resuscitation to perform important ecosystems functions.
Until recently, lungs were believed to be sterile, but today we know that they are inhabited by microbes migrating from the mouth. Dr Randi Bertelsen has been awarded an ERC grant to investigate the role played by the oral microbiome in lung disease.
Based on University of Turku's press release
For more than 3000 years, men have captured wild Asian elephants to use them for work or entertainment. In a new study published today in Nature Communications, ERC grantee Virpi Lummaa shows the harmful effects of these ongoing practices on wild-caught animals. The findings are based on detailed records from the past 100 years over a population of 5000 timber elephants from Myanmar.
The use and misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the emergence of drug-resistant bacterial strains, threatening our ability to treat common diseases. EU-funded research has shed new light on the mechanisms behind these microbial mutations, with implications for our understanding of diseases and resistance to treatment.
Virpi Lummaa holds an Academy of Finland Professorship at the University of Turku, Finland. She is interested in ageing, lifespan and natural selection in contemporary human populations, looking at evolutionary, ecological and demographic factors. At present, Prof. Lummaa also focuses on senescence patterns of the Asian elephant, a long-lived mammal that offers unique opportunities to address ageing mechanisms. Her latest findings highlight the significant role that elephant grandmothers play to ensure the survival of the calves, providing vital baby elephant care comparable to childcare in human communities across the world.Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."
A team of researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona deciphered the genetic mechanisms responsible for the evolutionary success of animals, including humans. The findings give insight on how life evolved from its simple one-cell form to complex multi-cellular organisms. The results, published on 21/4/2016 in Cell journal, may also provide hints how the life will evolve in future.
Plants form a key interface between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere by exchanging carbon, water and energy with their environment. They also release chemicals called “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) in the atmosphere. However, the overall impact of these gas compounds is poorly understood. Ülo Niinemets and his team look at the role of plants in large-scale Earth processes and how they affect air quality and the Earth surface temperature, solar radiation and precipitation.