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Spelman College Faculty Stories

Faculty Stories

Dr. Yonas Tekle Discovers Reproductive Habits of New Species

January 2020

Dr. Yonas Tekle Spelman CollegeYonas Tekle, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, is closing the gap of knowledge on diverse living organisms and species. His project, “Microbial Diversity and Behavior,” which received a $400,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, investigates microbial life forms in Arabia Lake located in Lithonia, Georgia. What makes his research significant is that the organism he and his students found were fusing in pairs and multiplying, which is unique for them. Usually the organisms are categorized as a-sexual. “When we looked closely, we realized they were combining their external parts, as well as their DNA. By definition, if you are mixing your DNA, sexual reproduction is occurring,” he said. “While we can prove this activity exists and sexual reproduction has happened, we still don’t know about 50 percent - or more -  of what’s involved in the genetics of the organisms.”