Ecologist Vasilis Kokkoris of VU Amsterdam has received a Starting Grant of 1.5 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC). The grant will enable him to conduct research into a mystery in the evolutionary biology of a specific fungal species, namely the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi.
Unlike most organisms where a single cell carries a single nucleus, a single cell of an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus contains thousands of nuclei. This mysterious multinucleate cell biology has led to open questions in evolutionary biology. The fungi have been called "evolutionary scandals" because they are thought to have survived millions of years without sexual reproduction, contradicting the theory that the lack of sexual reproduction in eukaryotes –organisms in which each cell contains a nucleus – should lead to extinction.
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