Aaron A. Heiss, Ph.D



  • Doctor of Philosophy (Biology), 2012, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (supervisor: Alastair G. B. Simpson).
  • Master of Science (Botany), 2006, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (supervisor: Patrick J. Keeling).
  • Bachelor of Science (Biology), 2002, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA.
  • Bachelor of Arts (Music), 1995, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, USA.

Research Interests

Eukaryotes include most familiar forms of life: all animals, plants, and fungi.  But there are many other lineages of eukaryotes, most primarily or exclusively microbial, that are lumped together as "protists", a term that undervalues their diversity.  Dr Heiss's research explores that diversity, both investigating the differences between "kingdom-scale" lineages and discovering features in common between them that may have been characteristics of the last common ancestor to all eukaryotes.  His primary activities are: (1) Collection, isolation, identification, establishment, description, and maintenance of cultures of eukaryotic microbes.  (2) Preparation and sequencing of RNA and DNA from particularly interesting cultures, and evolutionary analysis of sequence data, both for the generation of evolutionary trees and for investigation of genetically-determined traits.  (3) Computer-based modelling of subcellular anatomy of eukaryotic cells, determined through high-resolution transmission electron microscopy.  Dr Heiss focusses on 'incertae sedis' organisms, with no known close relatives, which may prove to be the key to resolving questions about the (currently poorly known) relationships amongst eukaryotes in general.


(dates separated by commas indicate online & print publications, respectively)

Heiss, A. A., Shiratori T, Avecilla G, Gyaltshen Y, Ishida K, Kim E: Isolation and description of a new strain of mantamonad. In prep.

Heiss, A. A., Heiss AW, Lucaks K, Kim E: The microtubular anatomy of the glaucophyte Cyanophora cuspidata revisited in the light of modern phylogeny. In prep.

Heiss, A. A., Kolisko M, Ekelund F, Brown MW, Roger AJ, Simpson AGB: The ancestral form of eukaryotes revealed or phylogenomic error?: Morphology and multigene phylogeny of a deep-branching malawimonad (Danskemonas okellyi n. gen. n. sp.). In prep.

Heiss, A. A., Lee WJ, Ishida K, Simpson AGB (2015): Cultivation and characterisation of new species of apusomonads (the sister group to opisthokonts), including close relatives of Thecamonas (Chelonemonas n. gen.). J. Eukaryot. Microbiol. 62 (5): 637–649.

Brown MW, Sharpe SC, Silberman JD, Heiss, A. A., Lang BF, Simpson AGB, Roger AJ (August, October 2013): Phylogenomics demonstrates that breviate flagellates are related to opisthokonts: implications for the origin of genes involved in multicellularity. Proc. R. Soc. B 280 (1769).

Heiss, A. A., Walker G, Simpson AGB (July, September 2013): The microtubular cytoskeleton of Thecamonas, a sister lineage to the opisthokonts. Protist, 164 (5): 598–621.

Kamikawa R, Brown MW, Nishimura Y, Sako Y, Heiss, A. A., Yubuki N, Gawryluk R, Simpson AG, Roger AJ, Hashimoto T, Inagaki Y (June 2013): Parallel re-modeling of EF-1α function: divergent EF-1α genes co-occur with EFL genes in diverse distantly related eukaryotes. BMC Evolutionary Biol. 13: 121.

Heiss, A. A., Walker G, Simpson AGB: The flagellar apparatus of Breviata anathema, a eukaryote without a clear supergroup affinity (March, August 2013). Europ. J. Protistol. 49 (3): 354–372.

Adl SM, Simpson AGB, Lane CE, Lukeš J, Bass D, Bowser SS, Brown MW, Burki F, Dunthorn M, Hampl V, Heiss, A. A., Hoppenrath M, Lara E, le Gall L, Lynn DH, McManus H, Mitchell EAD, Mozley-Stanridge SE, Parfrey LW, Pawlowski J, Rueckert S, Shadwick RS, Schoch CL, Smirnov A, Spiegel FW (September 2012): The revised classification of eukaryotes. J. Eukaryot. Microbiol. 57 (5): 429–493.

Kerney R, Kim E, Hangarter RP, Heiss, A. A., Bishop C, Hall BK (April 2011): Intracellular invasion of green algae in a salamander host. Proc. Nat’l. Adac. Sci. USA 108 (16): 6497–6502.

Heiss, A. A., Walker G, Simpson AGB (March, July 2011): The ultrastructure of Ancyromonas, a eukaryote without supergroup affinities. Protist 162 (3): 373–393.

Heiss, A. A., Walker G, Simpson AGB (April, May–June 2010): Clarifying the taxonomic identity of a phylogenetically important group of eukaryotes: Planomonas is a junior synonym of Ancyromonas. J. Eukaryot. Microbiol. 57 (3): 285–293.

Park JS, Kolisko M, Heiss, A. A., Simpson AGB (July–August 2009): Light microscopic observations, ultrastructure, and molecular phylogeny of Hicanonectes teleskopos n. gen., n. sp., a deep-branching relative of diplomonads. J. Eukaryot. Microbiol. 56 (4): 373–384.

de Koning AP, Noble GP, Heiss, A. A., Wong J, Keeling PJ (January 2008): Environmental PCR survey to determine the distribution of a non-canonical genetic code in uncultivable oxymonads. Environ. Microbiol. 10 (1): 65–74.

Heiss, A. A., Keeling PJ (July, August 2006): The phylogenetic position of the oxymonad Saccinobaculus based on SSU rRNA. Protist 157 (3): 335–344.