Diversity of eukaryotics is far greater than most people realize. In the Yuanning-Li lab, we are trying to use DNA records to study patterns and process of eukaryotic evolution on different time scales and with different types of genomic information. Combining a molecular systematic and/or genomic approach with information from organismal evolution has proved a powerful approach to study everything from the origin of major eukaryotic lineages (especially for marine invertebrates and fungi) to the recent adaptation to deep-sea chemosynthetic environments. Research in the lab focuses on utilizing computational approaches and genome-scale data to gain insight into molecular phylogenetics, evolutionary biology, comparative genomics, and bioinformatics.
Since the discovery of the gutless Rifita pachyptila at hydrothermal vents near the Galapogos in 1977, scientists have realized that chemosynthetic symbioses between marine invertebrates and bacteria are ubiquitous in natural ecosystems, ranging from hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, organic falls, mud volcanoes to shallow water sediments. Chemosynthetic symbioses can facilitate specialized deep-sea communities and have important roles in maintaining alpha and beta biodiversity, thereby facilitating adaptive radiation and evolutionary novelty. We use genomic tools to elucidate potential mechanisms used to allow chemosynthetically dependent holobionts adapt to, and evolve in, extreme deep-sea environments.