Evolutionary Cell Biology (ECB) has gained increasing attention in the last decades. Here we explorewhether ECB is truly inter-disciplinary through the combination of cellular and evolutionary biology tooffer evidence-based insights regarding the major questions of cell evolution. Since 2012, ECB asserts toutilize the increasing potential of high-throughput omics data (in silico) with morpho-functional (in situ)information, although challenges remain for a complete integration. For instance, the limited number ofmodel organisms and cultivation techniques available excludes the majority of the extant diversity of cellsfrom the scope of experimental inquiry. At the conceptual level, the simplification of evolutionary processesinfluenced by cultural views of evolution, such as adaptationism or Scala Naturae, challengeseffective interdisciplinary work. Without a profound understanding of evolutionary theory and an integrativeview of cell biology, the formulation of questions and experiments properly addressing evolutionand diversification of cell complexities can become misleading. In 2009, we advanced the discovery of anucleolus in the flagellated unicellular eukaryote Giardia lamblia, and studied nucleolus diversity in otherlineages via electron microscopy. Since then, studying evolutionary questions at the cellular level becamecentral to our research. We think that new methodological advances are re-shaping and strengthening theECB research program and opening its door to experimental scientists. For example, the discovery of newarchaea and protozoa and subsequent investigations that coupled in situ approaches with in silicoapproaches has proven that comprehensive morpho-functional information can be obtained that can only beunderstood through the merging of the cell biological and evolutionary discipline. Motivated by this, wehere explore the history, the challenges, and the opportunities of ECB to motivate researchers to join thisemergent field of research. We outline elements that contrast the current ECB discipline from previousintegrative attempts. We conclude by elucidating the current disciplinary constraints of ECB and proposeconsiderations towards successfully employing ECB to answer questions pertaining to the evolution ofcellular complexity.
Volume 46, 2021
Continuous Article Publishing mode
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