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PhD in Cellular & Molecular Biology (Universidade dos Acores, Portugal)
MSc Shellfish Biology, Fisheries and Culture (University of Wales, Bangor)
BSc with First Class Honours in Biology (Universidade dos Acores, Portugal)


Luis Cunha is a molecular ecologist specialised in soil ecology. Most of his research projects are related to the evolutionary ecology, phylogenetics and population genetics/genomics of invertebrates. His latest research project focus on the study of biodiversity signatures in historical anthropogenic ecosystems, and the role of humans as niche constructors. He is also interested in using the genetics of commensal animals (relationship with humans) as proxies to track and infer ancient human migrations/dynamics across South America.

Some external links:
-Personal Web Page
-ResearchGate Profile
-Lattes CV
-Scopus Author


Module Leader for:
BI1S104 Biological Research Skills (1st year);
BI2S111 Conservation Genetics and Wildlife Management (2nd year);
BI3S25 – Marine and Freshwater Biology (3rd year)
Additional teaching:
ES4S010 Terrestrial and Aquatic Conservation (Forests and Wildlife Conservation; MSc).
BI1S62 Big Game Tracking/African Biodiversity – Residential Field Trip – South Africa
BI1S105 Evolutionary Botany and Zoology


- Talavera, J.A., Cunha, L., Arévalo, J.R., Talavera, I.P., Kille, P. and Novo, M., 2019. Anthropogenic disturbance and environmental factors drive the diversity and distribution of earthworms in São Miguel Island (Azores, Portugal). Applied Soil Ecology, in press
- Ferreira, N.G., Morgado, R.G., Cunha, L., Novo, M., Soares, A.M., Morgan, A.J., Loureiro, S. and Kille, P., 2019. Unravelling the molecular mechanisms of nickel in woodlice. Environmental Research, 176:108507. Link
- James, S.W., Bartz, M.L., Stanton, D.W., Conrado, A.C., Dupont, L., Taheri, S., Silva, E.D., Cunha, L. and Brown, G.G. 2019. A neotype for Pontoscolex corethrurus (Müller, 1857)(Clitellata). Zootaxa, 4545(1), pp.124-132. Link
- Taheri, S. James, V. Roy, T. Decaëns, B.W. Williams, F. Anderson, R. Rougerie, C.-H. Chang, G. Brown, L. Cunha, D.W.G. Stanton, E. Da Silva, J-H. Chen, A.R. Lemmon, E. Moriarty Lemmon, M. Bartz, D. Baretta, I. Barois, E. Lapied, M. Coulis & L. Dupont 2018. Complex taxonomy of the ‘brush tail’ peregrine earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 124: 60-70. Link
- Anderson, C., Cunha, L., Sechi, P., Kille, P., Spurgeon D. (2017). Genetic Variation in Populations of the Earthworm, Lumbricus rubellus, Across Contaminated Mine Sites. BMC Genetics, 18(1):97. Link
- Parelho, C., dos santos Rodrigues, A., Bernardo, F., do Carmo Barreto, M., Cunha, L., Poeta, P. & Garcia, P., 2017. Biological endpoints in earthworms (Amynthas gracilis) as tools for the ecotoxicity assessment of soils from livestock production systems. Ecological Indicators, 95(2):984-990. Link
- Cunha, L., Thornber, A., Kille, P., Morgan, A. J., & Novo, M. (2017). A large set of microsatellites for the highly invasive earthworm Amynthas corticis predicted from low coverage genomes. Applied Soil Ecology, 119, 152-155. Link
- Conrado A.C., Arruda H., Stanton D.W.G., James S.W., Kille P., Brown G., Silva E., Dupont L., Taheri S., Morgan A.J., Simões N., Rodrigues A., Montiel R., Cunha L. (2017) The complete mitochondrial DNA sequence of the pantropical earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus (Rhinodrilidae, Clitellata): Mitogenome characterization and phylogenetic positioning. ZooKeys 688: 1-13. Link
- Rougon-Cardoso, A., Flores-Ponce, M., Ramos-Aboites, H.E., Martínez-Guerrero, C.E., Hao, Y.J., Cunha, L., Rodríguez-Martínez, J.A., Ovando-Vázquez, C., Bermúdez-Barrientos, J.R., Abreu-Goodger, C. and Chavarría-Hernández, N., 2016. The genome, transcriptome, and proteome of the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae: evolutionary signatures of a pathogenic lifestyle. Scientific Reports, 6, p.37536. Link
- Cunha L., Brown G.G., Stanton D.W., Da Silva E., Hansel F.A., Jorge G., McKey D., Vidal-Torrado P., Macedo R.S., Velasquez E., et al. (2016). Soil Animals and Pedogenesis: The Role of Earthworms in Anthropogenic Soils. Soil Science, 181, 110-125. Link
- Cunha, L., Stanton, D.W., James, S., Kille P. and Montiel R. (2016). Untangling the Volcanic Earthworm Genome. Experiment. Link.
- Macdonald, H.C., Cunha, L. & Bruford, M.W., 2016. Development of genomic resources for four potential environmental bioindicator species: Isoperla grammatica, Amphinemura sulcicollis, Oniscus asellus and Baetis rhodani. bioRxiv 046227. Link.
- Novo, M., Fernandez, R., Andrade, S.C.S., Marchan, D.F., Cunha, L. and Diaz Cosin, D.J. 2016. Phylogenomic analyses of a Mediterranean earthworm family (Annelida: Hormogastridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 95(pt B): 473-478. Link
- Novo M., Cunha L., Maceda-Veiga A., Talavera J.A., Hodson M.E., Spurgeon D., Bruford M.W, Morgan A.J., Kille P. 2015. Multiple introductions and environmental factors affecting the establishment of invasive species on a volcanic island. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 85: 89-100. Link
- Cunha L., Montiel R., Novo M., Orozco-terWengel P., Rodrigues A., Morgan A.J. et al. (2014). Living on a volcano’s edge: genetic isolation of an extremophile terrestrial metazoan. Heredity 112(2): 132-142. Link
- Novo, M., Andre, J., Cunha, L., Morgan, A.J., Spurgeon, D. and Kille, P. (2014). The functional ghost in the genome machine: Holistic mapping of environmentally induced changes in the epigenome of a soil sentinel. Toxicology Letters, v. 229, p. S18, 2014. Link
- Cunha L., Zanon V., Amaral A., Ferreira J. & Rodrigues A. 2011. Altered inorganic composition of enamel and dentin in mice teeth chronically exposed to an enriched mineral environment at Furnas, São Miguel (Azores). Arquipelago. Life and Marine Sciences 28: 33-37. Link
- Cunha L., Campos I., Montiel R., Rodrigues A., Morgan A.J., (2011). Morphometry of the epidermis of an invasive megascoelecid earthworm (Amynthas gracilis, Kinberg 1867) inhabiting actively volcanic soils in the Azores archipelago. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 74 (1): 25-32 Link.
- Garcia P., Cunha, L., Amaral A., & Rodrigues A., 2009. Bioavailability of heavy metals and apoptotic effects on the midgut cells of Pseudaletia unipuncta (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) inhabiting volcanic environments. Toxicology Letters 189S: S57–S273. Link.
- Rodrigues A., Cunha L., Amaral A., Garcia P., 2008. Bioavailability of heavy metals and their effects on the midgut cells of a phytopaghous insect inhabiting volcanic environments. Science of Total Environment, 406 (1-2):116-22. Link
- Cunha, L., Mascaro, M., Chiapa, X., Costa, A., Simoes, N. 2008. Experimental studies on the effect of food in early larvae of the cleaner shrimp Lysmata amboinensis (De Mann, 1888) (Decapoda: Caridea: Hippolytidae). Aquaculture 277 (1-2): 117-123. Link
- Cunha L., Amaral A., Medeiros V., Martins G., Wallenstein F., Couto R., Neto A., Rodrigues A. 2008. Bioavailable metals and cellular effects in the digestive gland of marine limpets living close to shallow water hydrothermal vents. Chemosphere 71 (7): 1356-1362. Link
- Cunha L., Martins G.M., Amaral A., Rodrigues A. 2007. A case of simultaneous hermaphroditism in the Azorean endemic limpet Patella candei gomesii (Mollusca: Patellogastropoda), a gonochoristic species. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 50 (4): 203-206. Link


External reviewer for the following scientific journals: Acta Amazonica, Chemosphere, Aquaculture Research, Coral Reefs, Integrative Zoology, Ecological Indicators. Publons Profile
Reviewer for Newton Fund (


Current Research:
- Metazoan Life and Extreme Environments
Understanding of how any metazoan organism tolerates an extreme environment comprised of multiple stressors may help to predict the impacts of current and future multifaceted global change on biodiversity and ecological function. Active volcanic soils represent extreme environments with unique features: elevated metal-ion concentrations, constant degassing over a wide area, and high temperature. Elevated soil temperature, as well as low O2, high CO2, and acidified soil are inhospitable challenges to the resident biota. The present proposal will derive a mechanistic understanding of the adaptation of an ecologically-relevant, ecosystem engineering, soil-dwelling invasive earthworm species (Amynthas gracilis) to cocktails of physico-chemical stressors of natural origin. Furthermore, the observations on this metazoan life-form with extremophile traits will have applications in the bioeconomy (biotechnology, agriculture and vermicomposting), medicine (models for anoxia & hypercapnia), and environmental management (ecotoxicology, risk assessment, land reclamation).

- Biodiversity Footprints in Anthropic Ecosystems
The anthropologic and archaeological study of pre-Columbian people of the Amazon Basin has revealed sophisticated ecosystem modifications Notwithstanding the absence of historical written records, the biological evidence of these practices remains in the remarkable soils referred to as Amazonian ‘dark earths’ (ADEs), or “Terra Preta do Indio”, produced by these ancient civilisations to promote highly enriched environment. With increasing global demand for food, energy and carbon, it is crucial to understand and learn from past land management systems. We can also learn from the influence of these historical practices on the associated biodiversity in order to appropriately manage the current and plan the future land uses. This understanding is essential for both economic and environmental sustainability, and to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations, while simultaneously conserving the ecological fidelity of the resource base on which they depend. This is particularly important with respect to soils and their intrinsic and diverse living organisms, because they sustain plant production (thus, they are at the base of the human food production chain), and have important consequences for water quality and availability. Furthermore, soils are a vast storehouse for biodiversity including many invertebrate species that contribute a number of essential ecosystem services, although most of these species remain mostly unknown, unseen and disregarded. By promoting the interdisciplinary connection between anthropology/archaeology, soil ecology and genomics, we will be able propose to integrate and harness the research expertise of internationally renowned scientists to investigate both the relationship of ADEs to the associated extant biodiversity, reveal details of past and current anthropogenic impact on the natural surroundings, as well as new clues regarding settlement dynamics over a large part of Brazil. Therefore, this project’s intention is to contribute to the knowledge of soil animal biodiversity and its relationship with soil fertility and land use changes in a mega-diverse biome (Amazonia).
More info web page:

Areas of Expertise

• Genomics
• Functional Genomics
• Bioinformatics – specialized in eukaryotic genomes
• Biodiversity mapping
• Anthropogenic Ecosystems
• Biodiversity assessment
• Soil Biology
• Tropical Ecology
• Historical ecosystem reconstruction
• Phylogenetics/omics
• Invertebrate Biology



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