Evolutionsbiologie / Evolutionary Biology

 

Bewilligungen / Grants 2012

 

Cooperation and competition among kin and the evolution of sociality in primates

Bewilligung: 26.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

To understand the evolution of sociality in human and non-human primates, evolutionary anthropologists generally rely on a loose collection of verbal arguments referred to as the 'socioecological model'. This model has recently been criticized for leaving much variation in primate social organisation unexplained. Primatologists have therefore called for more formal mathematical models. I will address this need by modelling primate social evolution using demographically explicit population models, a class of gametheoretical models which allow for feedbacks between individual behaviour and population dynamics. My work will account for the benefits of group living proposed by the socioecological model as well as for the costs arising through competition among kin over limited resources. The models I develop will allow me to replace many of the verbal arguments of the socioecological model with better testable predictions. I will test these predictions using comparative data across primates.

Universität Göttingen
Biologische Fakultät
Courant Forschungszentrum Evolution des
Sozialverhaltens
Markus Port
Kellnerweg 6
37077 Göttingen

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Manipulation of bacteria-fish interactions through marine viruses an evolutionary analysis (extension)

Bewilligung: 23.03.2012  Laufzeit:  2 Jahre

Evolution and maintenance of mutualism are difficult to explain by means of natural selection, as cheaters are likely to outcompete cooperative individuals. Accordingly, the shift from mutualism to parasitism is commonplace in nature, and can be induced by a third player that intervenes in the interaction between a symbiont and its host. Temperate phages are a typical example. They integrate into the genome of mutualistic bacteria and convert them into parasitic diseases - Cholera being one of them. Such tri-partite interactions quickly generate chaotic oscillations and their evolutionary dynamics are therefore difficult to predict. I propose to use a model system consisting of the pipefish Syngnathus typhle, bacteria of the genus Vibrio, and their temperate phages to study tri-partite interactions experimentally. My experiments will focus on the processes that lead to local adaptation and generate a geographic mosaic, on the applicability of the matching alleles hypothesis, and on virulence evolution. All these concepts have been developed in the framework of hosts and constitutive parasites and their validity in more complex communities is not known. Data that are obtained empirically are then integrated into a mathematical model.

GEOMAR - Helmholtz-Zentrum für
Ozeanforschung Kiel
Marine Ökologie - Evolutionsökologie
Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes
Dr. Olivia Roth
Düsternbrooker Weg 20
24105 Kiel
Tel.: +494316004557
Homepage: http://www.ifm-geomar.de/index.php?id=oroth

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Transcriptional plasticity and experimental evolution in insect-fungus interaction

Bewilligung: 23.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Not only organisms with similar habitus but also those with a more divergent phylogeny compete for limited resources. Direct ecological interactions like competition are a major force driving evolutionary changes via adaptation and counter-adaptation. Filamentous fungi and insects, particularly their larvae, utilise rotting organic material as substrate. Fungi are capable of producing a large variety of secondary metabolites, several of which possess insecticidal properties. Fungi may use these for protecting their resources against consumption by other organisms. As counter-adaptation, several insects may possess appropriate detoxification mechanisms. We examine this kind of competition interaction by analysing transcriptional responses of insect larvae (Drosophila) to fungus-infected substrates, hereby focussing on specific responses to toxin-competent versus toxin-incompetent fungi (of Aspergillus nidulans strains). Additionally, a selection experiment will be used to determine further mechanisms that may underlie increased insect survival in the presence of toxic fungi and thus this ecological evolutionary interaction of competing organisms.

Universität Münster
Department of Animal Evolutionary Ecology
Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity
Dr. Monika Trienens
Hüfferstrasse 1
48149 Münster

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Evolution of transgenerational effects: function & genetics of epigenetics.

Bewilligung: 23.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Phenotypic variation is determined to a large extent not only by the underlying genetic architecture, but by epigenetic effects causing variation in gene expression. Variation in offspring phenotypes induced by hormone mediated maternal effects are especially interesting since steroid hormones act as transcription factors, thereby directly affecting the epigenome which can lead to heritable modifications across generations. However, the adaptive and evolutionary significance of transgenerational epigenetic effects is highly debated. In this experiment we will study not only whether prenatal maternal effects prepare offspring in an optimal way for the future environment but we will also investigate the underlying hormonal mechanisms and the heritability of these. We will breed Japanese Quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) under high or low social density and follow the progeny across three generations. By combining behavioural, endocrinological and gene expression measurements we aim at enhancing our knowledge on the mechanisms and function of prenatal maternal effects.

Universität Bielefeld
Fakultät für Biologie / Verhaltensforschung
Lehrstuhl für Verhaltensforschung
Dr. Vivian Goerlich
Morgenbreede 45
33615 Bielefeld
Tel.: 05211062723

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The evolution of alternative splicing in Dscam: from genotype to immune phenotype (extension)

Bewilligung: 23.03.2012  Laufzeit:  2 Jahre

Recognition of numerous antigens is important for an effective and specific immune response. One way that a host can evolve diversity of immune recognition and effector molecules, is through alternative splicing. In this project I propose to examine whether the massively alternatively spliced putative immune receptor Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule, Dscam, could play a role in specific immune responses, at the phenotypic and the genotypic level. I will address the phenotype using a three-pronged approach using transcriptomics, protein and immune assay readout levels. Addressing Dscam from a genotypic standpoint will mean using information about sequence conservation in alternatively spliced exons across species, to test predictions about parasite-specific Dscam gene expression, and it will also mean testing our general hypotheses across insect species. I hope that this approach will provide some insight into the role of Dscam in immunity and also some ideas about what mechanisms may have led to the evolution of specific immune priming in insects.

Universität Münster
Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity
Dr. Sophie Armitage
Hüfferstrasse 1
48149 Münster
Tel.: 02518321023
Homepage: http://ieb.uni-muenster.de/animalevolecol/people/armitage

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Evolution and function of olfactory communication in songbirds

Bewilligung: 22.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

In the last decade olfaction in birds became of interest to the scientific community. However, olfaction in birds was still regarded as being restricted to very few taxa, as for example petrels or pigeons. Based on their brain anatomy, songbirds were assumed to be largely anosmic. Recent studies found first evidence that even songbirds can use olfaction and have also the genetic capacities for using the sense of smell. In a recent study we were able to show for the first time that zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) can smell and use olfaction for recognising their own nests. Based on these findings I plan to test four hypotheses. I will test in behavioural experiments when the own nest odour is learned during early life as I assume that is learned after hatching. I further predict that olfactory cues are critically involved in kin recognition, and parents distinguish between own and foreign chicks based on smell. At last I will test whether these olfactory skills are restricted to the highly social living zebra finches or whether other less social living estrildid finches have less sophisticated olfactory skills for intra-specific communication.

Universität Bielefeld
Fakultät für Biologie
Arbeitsbereich Animal Behaviour
Dr. Tobias Krause
Morgenbreede 45
33615 Bielefeld
Tel.: 0521 106 2841
Fax: 0521 106 2998
http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/biologie/vhf/ft/t_krause.html

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Ecological genomics over time: natural selection on gene expression in Daphnia

Bewilligung: 22.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

The increasing number of cases documenting rapid changes in gene expression levels supports the hypothesis that transcription levels underlie natural selection. Like gene sequences, transcription profiles are heritable, thus providing a substrate for evolution. Evidence for local adaptation in the water flea has been already provided, at different levels: resistance to parasites, predation, and species composition. Exploiting the potential of biological archives, we will hatch past populations of Daphnia from the resting egg bank and compare them to recent populations in a large scale microarray analysis, aiming at inferring the gene expression variation within and among-populations. This variation will be correlated with demographic events and fitness measurements, in order to assess the contribution of selection to the observed variation. The outcomes of this study will allow us to understand the genetic background of rapid adaptation to environmental changes in a key species of aquatic ecosystems.

Universität München
Evolutionary Biology
Evolutionary and Functional Genomics
Dr. Mathilde Cordellier
Grosshaderner Str. 2
82152 Planegg-Martinsried

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Sex determination and its influence on speciation and radiation of cichlids in the East African Great Lakes

Bewilligung: 22.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Cichlid fishes from the East African lakes are a major example for adaptive radiation and offer an excellent model for the investigation of explosive speciation. The genetic mechanisms underlying speciation remain largely unknown, however. Recent empirical and theoretical work suggests an important role of sex determination mechanisms in speciation. Sex determination is a fundamental aspect in the development of sexually reproducing species. Cichlids show an overwhelming diversity in coloration, jaw morphology, behavior, etc. But is this diversity also reflected in sex-determining systems and especially in the underlying genes and genomic regions? And if so could this be a reason for their evolutionary success? This project aims to uncover conservation and diversity in sex-determining systems and their implication in speciation in cichlids. I will investigate the genes known to play a role in sex determination and their expression using comparative transcriptomics in convergently evolved cichlid species. Most importantly, I aim to identify genomic regions responsible for sex determination (and hence most likely speciation) in cichlids.

Universität Basel
Umweltwissenschaften
Zoologisches Institut Evolutionsbiologie
Dr. Astrid Böhne
Vesalgasse 1
CH-4051 Basel
SCHWEIZ
Tel.: 0041 61 267 03 05
Fax: 0041 61 267 03 0
Homepage: http://evolution.unibas.ch/salzburger/

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Molecular networks determining co-evolution and adaptation of commensal microflora and innate lymphocytes

Bewilligung: 22.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

In the intestine, co-evolution of microbes and vertebrate hosts has established a highly mutualistic relationship. It is now widely appreciated that continuous sensing of the indigenous microbiota by immune cells and epithelia promotes tissue homeostasis which may be the primordial function of the immune system at mucosal interfaces. Recent data concerning ROR?t+ innate lymphocytes has revealed one molecular pathway required for the mutualistic interaction between microbes and hosts. ROR?t+ ILC constitutively produce interleukin (IL-)22 in a microbiota-dependent manner. IL-22 exclusively acts on epithelial cells inducing an antimicrobial gene expression program shaping the colonization with benefitial commensals and repelling potential pathogens. A similar molecular network has been identified in invertebrates and it may constitute an evolutionary conserved transcriptional network allowing to establish host-microbe mutualism. The proposal aims to identify specific microbiota and the molecular programs induced by these to regulate function and differentiation of ROR?t+ ILC. In the second aim, we will analyze the impact of ROR?t+ ILC on the composition of the colonizing microbiota. These studies may identify molecular circuits selected during evolution to safeguard the mutually benefitial co-existence of microbes and host.

Universitätsklinikum Freiburg
IMMH - Mikrobiologie-Immunologie-Virologie
Abteilung Mikrobiologie & Hygiene
Liudmila Britanova, Ph.D.
Hermann-Herder-Strasse 11
79104 Freiburg
Tel.: +49 716 203 6606

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Social bonds without genetic ties: a behavioral endocrine model in bonobos (pan paniscus)

Bewilligung: 22.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Humans are distinguished from other species by high levels of sociality and cooperation among unrelated individuals. This research will explore the behavioral endocrinology of social bonds in a close phylogenetic relative that exhibits high levels of cooperation among unrelated females, the bonobo (Pan paniscus). During a three-year collaboration with scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA), the applicant will: 1) Characterize the quality and diversity of social relationships among female bonobos, 2) Test between competing hypotheses to explain patterns of cooperation among unrelated females and 3) Identify physiological correlates of affiliation and cooperation by measuring peripheral levels of the neuropeptide hormone oxytocin under varied social contexts. By examining the behavioural endocrinology of social bonds in a close phylogenetic relative, this research will explore possible evolutionary pathways leading to flexible cooperation in humans. In addition, this work has relevance for developing novel therapies to treat clinical disorders affecting normative social behavior.

Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre
Anthropologie, Leipzig
Abteilung Primatologie
Dr. Liza Moscovice
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

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Equifinality in proximal femur morphology: Implications for inferring species-level adaptation from the hominin fossil record

Bewilligung: 22.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Interpretation of fossil limb specimens has greatly contributed to our understanding of the role of bipedalism in human evolution. For example, researchers have relied on both internal and external femoral traits to infer bipedal adaptation in Orrorin tugenensis. However, comparative studies have demonstrated equifinality in the internal femoral architecture of bipedal humans and pronograde quadrupedal primates that have similar weight distributions on the hind limb during locomotion. A wider comparative study of external femoral morphology is still needed to fully understand the functional significance of this evidence in the hominin fossil record. The proposed research will use computed tomography and geometric morphometrics to 1) explore external shape variation in bipedal humans, suspensory hominoids, and pronograde quadrupeds; 2) examine covariation in external and internal traits of the proximal femur. This study will clarify how different aspects of the proximal femur should be interpreted when inferring locomotor behavior from the fossil record.

Universität Tübingen
Paleoanthropology Section
Zentrum für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie
Thomas Rein, Ph. D.
Rümelinstraße 23
72070 Tübingen
Tel.: 07071 29 74994

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Sexual behaviour and social constraints in a New World primate

Bewilligung: 21.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Constraints theory says that females will increase their reproductive success (RS) by employing different strategies to overcome social constraints on their ability to freely exercise mate preference. However, little is known about how between and within-sex social constraints may affect females' ability to implement their mating strategies. This project has two goals. First, by experimentally altering males' qualities (e.g. males' control over food) and considering indirect benefits (e.g. role of the major histocompatibility complex), this study will shed light on direct and indirect components underpinning female sexual preferences in wild subjects. Second, by combining analysis of behavioural, hormonal, and bio-acoustic data, I will explore whether females adopt different mating strategies to overcome social constraints imposed by males and other females. By doing so, this study will allow for a better understanding of the competitive factors at the basis of sexual selection in sexually-reproducing systems characterised by long-term co-existences of individuals.

Universität Göttingen
Courant Forschungszentrum
"Evolution des Sozialverhaltens"
Barbara Tiddi, Ph.D.
Kellnerweg 6
37077 Göttingen
Tel.: 05513951411

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Identification and evolution of the gene regulatory network underlying head development in five closely related Drosophila species

Bewilligung: 21.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

One major question in evolutionary biology concerns the molecular basis of the morphological variation observed in nature. The size and shape of a complex organ is defined during its development by the action of gene regulatory networks (GRNs), which ensure the tightly controlled expression of developmental genes. Changes in the function and regulation of those genes have been shown to account for variation in morphological traits. However, a comprehensive understanding of how GRNs evolve to promote morphological divergence is missing to date. Therefore, this proposal seeks to investigate the architecture and the evolution of the GNR underlying head development in five closely related Drosophila species. A combination of recent advances in sequencing technologies (RNAseq), morphological description and functional assays will be applied to identify changes within the GRN that account for variation in head morphology. The results of this study will significantly contribute to the mechanistic understanding of morphological evolution.

Universität Göttingen
Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach-Institut
für Zoologie / Anthroposophie
Department of Developmental Biology
GZMB, Ernst-Caspari-Haus
Dr. Nico Posnien
Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11
37077 Göttingen

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The genetic basis of hybrid incompatibility in Lepidopterans

Bewilligung: 21.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Hybrid incompatibility (HI), the inviability or sterility of interspecific hybrids, is a ubiquitous phenomenon that hinders the genetic exchange between species. Thus, by acting as a reproductive isolation barrier, HI plays an important role in speciation. Several genes causing HI have been recently identified and characterized in Drosophila and even in higher taxa. HI in lepidopterans however has hardly been studied on a molecular level. Using two lepidopteran genera whose representatives either belong to two distinct species or to two strains of one species that are believed to be in the process of speciation, the proposed project will identify the genes underlying HI in these systems. Via classical mapping techniques and next-generation sequencing, the planned comparative approach will not only fill the aforesaid gap but will significantly contribute to our understanding of the evolution of reproductive isolation in one of the most speciose orders in the world.

Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische
Ökologie, Jena
Abteilung Entomologie
Dr. Silvia Schmidt
Hans-Knöll-Str. 8
07745 Jena
Tel.: 03641 571559
Homepage: www/ext/hopa.html

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Analysis of natural selection on phenotypic traits with a polygenic basis

Bewilligung: 21.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

Understanding how natural selection has shaped the genome is an important activity in population genetics, because it helps to unravel the basis of adaptation. It is well known that positive selection on a single mutation may result in the hitchhiking effect (i.e. a reduction of genetic variation around the site of selection called a "selective sweep"). However, due to the polygenic nature of many (if not most) phenotypes selection may act simultaneously on multiple loci. The genomic signature of polygenic selection is largely unknown at present and the main focus of this project. Using extensive computer simulations, I will explore realistic evolutionary models that include demographic processes as well as natural selection on multi-locus phenotypes. As a new statistic for analyzing the data, I introduce the dyadic site frequency spectrum that combines frequencybased and haplotype-based aspects of the data (that have previously been analyzed separately). The results will be used to infer genomic regions that have been shaped by polygenic selection in humans and Drosophila.

Universität München
Lehrstuhl für Evolutionsbiologie
Department Biologie II
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Stephan
Grosshaderner Straße 2
82152 Planegg-Martinsried
Tel.: 089 218074102
Fax: 089 218074104
Homepage: http://www.zi.biologie.uni-muenchen.de/evol/EvoBio.html

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Weiterführung und Abschluss des Ausbildungskonzepts "Tübingen in Evolution - Evolution in Tübingen"

Bewilligung: 05.03.2012  Laufzeit:  3 Jahre

This is an application for a 3-year extension of a successful programme at the University of Tübingen that was established with funding by the Volkswagen Foundation during the last 3 years. In this programme, the interdisciplinary platform "Evolution and Ecology Forum" (EvE) established itself as a trademark within the university of Tübingen. As a consequence, "Evolution" has obtained a prominent position in the biosciences in Tübingen. This application proposes to continue this process with one major addition, a School of Evolutionary Studies. This will further improve the visibility of evolutionary science across disciplines, enhance the chances of attracting students, PhDs and postdocs to study evolutionary biology and ecology in Tübingen, and eventually result in a selfsustainable, internationally visible centre for evolution in Tübingen. We want to continue promoting a better understanding of evolutionary biology by the general public by improving school education, advanced training of teachers and a public lecture series. We shall also continue to promote "evolutionary thinking" as an academic soft skill for university students outside the specialist evolutionary biology programmes.

Universität Tübingen
Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Evolution und Ökologie
Lehrstuhl für Evolutionsökologie der Tiere
Prof. Dr. Nico K. Michiels

Universität Tübingen
Institut für Geowissenschaften
Prof. Dr. Michal Kucera

Universität Tübingen
Institut für Evolution und Ökologie
Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Universität Tübingen
Institut für Evolution und Ökologie
Dr. Katharina Foerster

Kontakt:
Universität Tübingen
Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Evolution und Ökologie
Lehrstuhl für Evolutionsökologie der Tiere
Prof. Dr. Nico K. Michiels
Auf der Morgenstelle 28
72076 Tübingen
Tel.: 07071 29 74649
Fax: 07071 29 5634
Homepage: http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/en/faculties/mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche-fakultaet/fachbereiche/biologie/institute/institute-of-evolution-and-ecology/groups/animal-evolutionary-ecology.html

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