Research at our department is devoted to the analysis of patterns in biological diversity and to the ecological and evolutionary processes driving these patterns.

On the community level we are primarily interested in
(a) determinants of biodiversity along environmental gradients and
(b) consequences of anthropogenic habitats alteration on the composition of species assemblages.

The comparative approach is a backbone of our scientific interests. We contrast patterns and processes prevalent in species-rich animal assemblages of tropical forest ecosystems with those in far less diverse temperate-zone biomes. Thereby, we touch upon the dimensions of species, functional, and phylogenetic diversity. Much of our research in tropical ecology is centered around the field station La Gamba in Costa Rica.

On the population level we study requirements and dynamics of individual species, especially animals of conservation concern.

On the individual level, we address the significance of genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity for the evolutionary ecology of organisms (e.g. with regard to micro-evolution and speciation).

Using selected phytophagous insects as main examples, we study the evolution of animal diversity, from the population level (phylogeography) across species to higher systematic levels (phylogeny). These studies open new insights into radiation processes in relation to historical factors as well as in co-evolutionary interaction with host plants.

Focal organisms range from insects (butterflies, moths, ants, beetles, dragonflies, etc.) to vertebrates (especially birds).

Recent publications

Huemer P, Hebert PDN, Mutane M, Wieser C, Wiesmair B, Hausmann A et al. Large geographic distance versus small DNA barcode divergence: Insights from a comparison of European to South Siberian Lepidoptera. PLoS ONE. 2018 Nov 2;13(11):e0206668. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206668

Letsch H, Gottsberger B, Metzl C, Astrin J, Friedman ALL, McKenna DD et al. Climate and host‐plant associations shaped the evolution of ceutorhynch weevils throughout the Cenozoic. Evolution. 2018 Sep;72(9):1815-1828. Epub 2018 Jul 24. doi: 10.1111/evo.13520

Heidrich L, Friess N, Fiedler K, Brändle M, Hausmann A, Brandl R et al. The dark side of Lepidoptera: Colour lightness of geometrid moths decreases with increasing latitude. Global Ecology and Biogeography: a Journal of Macroecology. 2018 Apr;27(4):407-416. Epub 2018 Jan 2. doi: 10.1111/geb.12703

Greimler J, Schulze CH, López Sepúlveda P, Novoa P, Gatica A, Reiter K et al. Strong indication of an extinction-based saturation of the flora on the Pacific Robinson Crusoe Islands. Ecology and Evolution. 2018 Mar 1;8(5):2527-2533. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3882

Mayer V, Nepel M, Blatrix R, Oberhauser FB, Fiedler K, Schönenberger J et al. Transmission of fungal partners to incipient Cecropia-tree ant colonies. PLoS ONE. 2018 Feb 21;13(2):e0192207. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192207