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Understanding of marine biodiversity

Our scientific goal is to understand the processes and mechanisms of evolution by analyzing the marine biodiversity in the context of species richness, phylogeny, function and ecosystem.

For the sustainable prosperity and human wellbeing, an understanding of the marine biodiversity is a key issue. Organisms on the earth are divided into three domains, i.e., eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea. Eukaryotes show a high diversity and are composed of unicellular organisms (such as protists and yeasts) and multicellular organisms (such as plants and animals). These organisms play an important role in the marine ecosystem.

Extreme environments of the ocean have not intensively been surveyed due to logistic difficulties, and the scientific knowledge is still poor. Such extreme environments include the deep sea that is one of the largest biospheres on the earth, oxygen-depleted sediments/water column, and chemosynthesis-based ecosystems including hydrothermal vents, cold seeps and organic falls.

It is considered that eukaryotes emerged and diversified in Proterozoic oceans with oxygenated surface waters, but commonly anoxia at depth. The evolutionary diversification of eukaryotes is probably attributed to adaption to new empty niches generated over the Earth’s history, together with symbiosis. Thus, surveys in various (especially extreme) marine environments are important in order to understand the processes and mechanisms of eukaryotic evolution. Top predators are considered to have an important role in maintenance of the structures and functions of ecosystems not only in marine but also terrestrial environments. Due to lack of ecological knowledge of the top predators in the deep-sea ecosystems, it is important to understand the diversity and ecology of the top predators, which leads to a new image of marine ecosystems. For the new researches in extreme environments, we will work on the development of advanced technologies.

We mainly focus on extreme environments to understand the processes and mechanisms of diversification (evolution) of marine organisms, especially eukaryotes, and the role of top predators in deep-sea ecosystems. For the sustainable prosperity and human wellbeing, we also contribute our knowledge to understanding ecosystem changes and to biotechnology innovation.

Katsunori Fujikura
Director, Department of Marine Biodiversity Research

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Department of Marine Biodiversity Research
Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology
2-15, Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka-city, Kanagawa, 237-0061, Japan