Evolution of multicellularity: Capture of unicellular versus multicellular choanoflagellates by a protozoan predator

Summer 2017

William Kumler : Marine Science/Molecular, Environmental Biology

Mentor: Mimi Koehl

All animals are multicellular, but why? My research this summer hopes to answer a part of this question by studying animals' closest living relative: choanoflagellates. These organisms can be either unicellular or colonial, and it's been theorized that this discrepancy is due to specific predation- where predators prefer either colonial or unicellular choanoflagellates. This predation could provide an evolutionary pressure that encourages the formation of colonies, a predecessor to true multicellularity.

The research I was involved with this summer through the SURF Rose Hills Experience was a huge step forward for me as a researcher and aspiring scientist. I had never before been engaged in a research project so fully, and what I learned from this experience has shown me a lot about what I want to do in my future. I was inspired by the dedication and hard work of those I saw every day, and I learned how to work with a project from its very inception to the final presentations. I'm so grateful to have participated in this experience and can confidently say that I'll remember this summer for the rest of my life because of it.