Anticipation of Critical Transitions in Complex Systems

© Designservice WWU

Complex systems are known to show at tipping points abrupt changes in their macroscopical behavior under smooth parameter variations. In recent years the identification and anticipation of tipping points of complex systems from measurement data received much attention in the scientific community. One approach relies on the general theory of complex systems and the result that close to tipping points systems that are formed by the nonlinear interaction of many subsystems show universal features. Although the constituting parts can be very different they all show phenomena like for example critical slowing down or critical fluctuations. This can be observed in a wide variety of systems from different scientific disciplines starting from Laser physics over pattern formation in chemical reactions, biological and medical systems and also in psychology. In the mathematical description of these phenomena the universality is reflected by the fact that close to such critical points the dynamics of very different systems can be described by the same basic types of equations. This universal behavior is the foundation of many of the current approaches to develop indicators for tipping points for ecological and social systems even in cases where modeling of the system of interest is difficult or up to now not possible. The intention of this workshop is to give an overview over recent developments in this field. The talks cover topics from such diverse fields as ecology, neuro science and physics.

Organizers of this workshop are Arndt Telschow & Oliver Kamps.

For more informations on the workshop and how to apply please visit the CENOS homepage.

Enhancement of freshwater biodiversity following structural restoration?

© Bever Project 2017

Transversal dams prevent migration of aquatic organisms such as fish and macroinvertebrates. A current student project (Bsc. Biosciences, Msc. Water Sciences) supervised by the Limnology group of the IEB investigates the present ecological status of the structurally modified lowland river Bever near Ostbevern (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany). Restoration measures starting in Autumn 2017 aim at achieving the „good ecological status“, as required by the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). To accomplish this goal the migration barriers (picture) will be removed and natural substrates such as wood will be placed to allow diverse morphodynamic development and free migration of the fauna. An accompanying monitoring will show whether a benthic community typical for sandy lowland streams will establish. Read more about the WFD...

Digging into the harsh world of ants

© Charlie Leight/ASU

Foraging is a risky task, in particular for an ant in the desert. Kwapiche et al. (2017) showed that individual colonies of Veromessor pergandei turnover up to 34,000 foragers in their peak foraging months. Overall forager population turned over approximately 20 times during the year, cumulatively returning 3.4 kg of biomass (in ants) per hectare. Surprisingly, colonies where the queen mated with fewer males did better than colonies where the queen mated with multiple males.

CL Kwapich, J Gadau, B Hölldobler, The ecological and genetic basis of annual worker production in the desert seed harvesting ant, Veromessor Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 71 (8), 110.

Claudia Fricke has received a "Heisenberg Fellowship"

Claudia Fricke I Kleiner Ausschnitt F _rs Web
© AG Fricke

We want to congratulate our colleague Claudia Fricke for her extraordinary achievements. She received a “Heisenberg Fellowship” of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
The Heisenberg Programme is directed primarily at those researchers who have qualified for professorship via the Emmy Noether Programme, DFG staff positions, private-sector research or non-faculty academic positions. The target group also includes junior professors who have received positive evaluations, those who have achieved their habilitation or equivalent, and German researchers returning from abroad, as well as appropriately qualified foreign researchers looking to pursue careers in Germany.

Source: Deutsche Forschungs Gemeinschaft

Rensch-Lecture 2017

Diethard Tautz
© Pivate

On June 13th, 2017 the annual Rensch Lecture was given by Prof. Diethard Tautz from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön in the Aula of the Schloss. Prof. Tautz talked about the controversial hot topic of, if and how it is possible that completely new genes, so called "de novo" genes, emerge from previously non-coding regions on the DNA instead from gene duplications, which was hitherto considered to be the only major source of novel genes. His lecture with the title "Gene aus dem Nichts - wie in Zufallssequenzen genetische Information entsteht" was well attended and spurred a lively discussion.

Paper on automatic plant species identification using convolutional neural networks published

May2017m _ller2new
© Pierre Barré

Together with the Intelligent Vision Systems group at the University of Bonn the Evolution and Biodiversity of Plants group developed the software LeafNet that uses convolutional neural networks to automatically identify plant species from digital images of their leaves. It has been published in the following paper:

Barré P, Stöver BC, Müller KF, Steinhage V: LeafNet: A computer vision system for automatic plant species identification. Ecological Informatics 2017, 40:50-56

Leopoldina Statement April 2017

© Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina (2017)

The German Academy of Sciences, "Leopoldina", issued a 56-pages statement report on the status and recommendations for teaching Evolutionary Biology in Germany at Schools and Universities ("Evolutionsbiologische Bildung in Schule und Universität. Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina e.V. Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften, Halle (Saale)"). As a main argument they strongly recommended to foster teaching Evolutionary Biology as a unifying basis of Biology and more strongly in all curricula and issued a couple of guidelines how this could be accomplished.. Also, they listed the major centres of Evolutionary Biology teaching and research in Germany, with the IEB featuring prominently.

Software components handling phylogenetic metadata foster data accessibility and reuse

Newmarch2017m _ller1
© Ben Stöver

Different software components developed in the Evolution and Biodiversity of Plants group work together to allow scientist to attach and visualize metadata of their research data. Annotating scientific data with semantic information in a machine readable way becomes increasingly important in the age of big data and the semantic web to ensure (automated) accessibility and reusability. The poster “Increasing data accessibility and reuse in phylogenetics by employing externally defined ontologies” presented at the MGSE symposium shows the concept in detail.

Further information on the presented software:

  • JPhyloIO - A Java library for event-based reading and writing of different phylogenetic file formats through a common interface
  • LibrAlign - A GUI library for displaying and editing multiple sequence alignments and attached data
  • TreeGraph 2 - A feature rich and easy to use phylogenetic tree editor
  • More software developed in the Evolution and Biodiversity of Plants group

Start of the Marie Curie Innovative Training Network ES-Cat (Evolution Synthetic biology and Biocatalysis)

Graphicforwebsiteblurb Ebb Bvl March2017
© BornbergLab

Erich Bornberg-Bauer and Bert van Loo are pleased to announce the start of the Marie Curie Innovative Training Network ES-Cat (Evolution Synthetic biology and Biocatalysis), part of Horizon 2020. Together with the 9 other partner labs in Europe they will aim to understand and use the forces of Darwinian evolution for better protein engineering strategies. The network will be implemented from the 1st of March 2017 and will run untill the 29th of February 2020. Brennen Heames (start 1st of March) and Berndjan Eenink (start 1st of April) will start their PhD as part of ES-cat and will study the relation between the biochemcial and biophyscical properties of current and ancestral proteins and the adaptive potential of those proteins.

For more information please visit the ES-cat homepage

Projektmodul - Vorstellung der Arbeitsgruppen

08.02.2017 - 18 Uhr - Sozialraum des IEB

Wir möchten alle interessierten Studierenden zur Vorstellung der Projektmodule der Arbeitsgruppen des IEB einladen. Stattfinden wir die Vorstellungsrunde im Sozialraum des IEB (Hüfferstr. 1, 48149 Münster) am 08.02.2017 ab 18 Uhr.
Vorstellen werden sich die Arbeitsgruppendes IEB.

  • Bornberg-Bauer (Molekulare Evolution und Bioinformatik)
  • Fricke (Evolution und Sexual Conflict)
  • Kurtz (Evolutionäre Ökologie der Tiere)
  • Meyer (Limnologie)
  • Müller (Evolution und Biodiversität der Pflanzen) 
  • Telschow (Genom Evolution, Mathematische Modelierungen) 

Einladung Antrittsvorlesung von Herrn Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gadau

Wir möchten hiermit herzlichst alle Mitarbeiter und Studierenden des Fachbereichs Biologie der WWU Münster dazu einladen die Antrittsvorlesung von Herrn Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gadau vom Institut für Evolution und Biodiversität zu besuchen. Sie wird am Freitag, den 27. Januar 2017, um 16 Uhr c.t. im Hörsaal des Instituts für Neuro- und Verhaltensbiologie in der Badestr. 9, 48149 Münster stattfinden. Thema ist die „Genetische Architektur und Evolution einfacher und komplexer Merkmale“.


12 PhD positions in the Research Training Group “Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease” (EvoPAD)

Start: 1st April 2017. 3-year positions (TV-L E13 65 %)

The new DFG-funded Research Training Group “Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease” (EvoPAD, GRK 2220) at the University of Münster is now offering 12 PhD possitions in Biology, Medicine, and Philosophy. Application deadline is January 8th, 2017.

For more information on how to apply and available projects please visit the EvoPAD homepage or the EvoPAD application page.

Paper on the evolution of protein domain repeats by Andreas Schüler

© BornbergLab

A paper on the evolution of protein domain repeats by PhD student Andreas Schüler (who graduated since) appeared in "Journal Molecular Biology and Evolution". The study titled "Evolution of Protein Domain Repeats in Metazoa" describes how, over evolutionary very long time scales, repeats of functional and structural units, so called domain, evolve by duplication and loss or insertion of domains. Repeats are notoriously complicated to capture for all algorithms and cause many sequencing mistakes but it is important to understand their coming about because repeats are involved in many cellular disorders and implicated in diseases, e.g. in neurodegenerative diseases.

Andreas characterised repeats according to their structure and inferred the mechanisms which underly their sometimes fast but mostly much slower than previously thought evolution.

Prof. Jürgen Gadau and the Molecular Evolution and Sociobiology Group join the IEB

GabdauLab Coat of Arms
© AG Gadau

We want to welcome Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gadau as the head of the Molecular Evolution and Sociobiology Group at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity. He got his PhD at the University of Würzburg in 1997 and later worked as a Feodor-Lynen PostDoc at the University of California in Davis. After his stay abroad he habilitated in 2004 in Würzburg under Prof. Bert Hölldobler and accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at the Arizona State University in 2004 where he was an integral part of the Social Insect Research Group and Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity for 12 years. Since November Jürgen Gadau now holds the professorship for Molecular Evolutionary Biology at the IEB. He is also involved in the Münster Graduate School of Evolution (MGSE) as one of many PIs.

This is what he says about his research interests:
"We are using social (ants and bees) and solitary insects (parasitoid wasps like Nasonia) to understand the genetic basis and regulation of adaptive traits across multiple levels from gene to colony and time frames from seconds to millions of years. A major challenge for the future is to map genetic, genomic and epigenetic variation to observable phenotypic variation and understand how these traits evolve."

DFG funds new Research Training Group

Rtg Logo 4

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has granted the WWU funding for a Research Training Group on „Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease (EvoPAD)”. PhD students within EvoPAD will use knowledge derived from the theory of evolution to achieve a deeper understanding of the processes that are underlying adaptation and disease. They will be mentored by 17 scientists from the Faculty of Biology, the Medical Faculty, and the Department of Philosophy – 15 of whom are also Principle Investigators of the MGSE. EvoPAD is one of 20 new Research Training Groups funded by the DFG which offer PhD students the chance to complete their theses in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level. The project will be funded for a period of 4.5 years starting from April 2017 with almost 4 Million Euros. Press release by the DFG Press release by the WWU

Annual Rensch Price 2016 goes to Jonathan Schmitz

© BornbergLab

Jonathan Schmitz gets awarded the annual Rensch price for his master thesis. In his thesis, Jonathan analysed the evolution of transcription factor families in Metazoa and found out that these families evolve via single gene as well as whole genome duplication and that their functional diversification is facilitated by reshuffling of protein domains, conserved  blocks of protein sequence. The thesis resulted in the publication of a paper in Nucleic Acid Research.


Wir nehmen Abschied von unserem plötzlich und viel zu früh verstorbenen Kollegen, Dozenten, Mitarbeiter und Freund

                                                                     Dr. Joachim Röschenbleck

Mit außergewöhnlichem Engagement und enormer Kompetenz war Joachim Röschenbleck viele Jahre als Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im Botanischen Garten der Universität Münster und in den Instituten für Evolution und Biodiversität und Biologie und Biotechnologie der Pflanzen tätig.

Durch beharrlichen Einsatz und große Leidenschaft für seine Tätigkeit konnte er nicht nur wesentliche Erkenntnisse zu seinem Forschungsfeld beitragen, sondern auch viele Impulse zur stetigen Weiterentwicklung des Botanischen Gartens geben.

Den Besuchern des Botanischen Gartens war Joachim nicht zuletzt durch seine unzähligen und exzellenten Führungen bekannt. Besonders beeindruckten hierbei seine außergewöhnlichen Pflanzenkenntnisse, wie sie in diesem Umfang inzwischen äußerst selten geworden sind. Dabei vermochte er sein Wissen immer auf sehr unterhaltsame und eindrückliche Weise zu vermitteln. So konnte er auch die Studierenden auf Führungen, Exkursionen und in Praktika für botanische Inhalte und Fragestellungen begeistern und hinterlässt als geschätzter Dozent auch in der universitären Lehre eine große Lücke.

Seine immer lebensfrohe, hilfsbereite und kollegiale Art wird uns allen sehr fehlen.
Unser aufrichtiges Mitgefühl gilt den Angehörigen. Tief betroffen trauern wir mit ihnen um Joachim.

Für den Fachbereich Biologie
Der Dekan
Prof. Dr. Wolf-Michael Weber

Für alle Studierenden des Fachbereichs
Die Fachschaft der Biologie

Für alle Mitarbeiter des Instituts für Evolution und Biodiversität
Prof. Dr. Kai Müller
Geschäftsführender Direktor

Für alle Mitarbeiter des Instituts für Biologie und Biotechnologie der Pflanzen
Prof. Dr. Michael Hippler
Geschäftsführender Direktor

Informationen zur Trauerfeier am 18.06.2016 finden Sie in der Traueranzeige.

New Paper on "Mechanisms of transcription factor evolution in Metazoa" published by BornbergLab

A paper analysing the mechanisms of transcription factor evolution in Metazoa becomes published in Nucleic acid research. In this paper, Jonathan Schmitz, Fabian Zimmer and Erich Bornberg-Bauer show that transcription factor evolve via single gene and whole genome duplication and that their functional diversification is facilitated by the rearrangement of conserved blocks of sequences (protein domains).

Mark C. Harrison and Evelien Jongepier join the BornbergLab

© BornbergLab

Mark C. Harrison and Evelien Jongepier have started as postdoctoral researchers on the Research Unit project "Sociality and the reversal of the fecundity/longevity trade-off". Using comparative genomics, they will unravel fecundity/longevity trade-offs in social insects and their non-social relatives. A hallmark of ageing is the trade-off between fecundity and longevity, although reversals of this trade-off independently evolved in several distant social insect taxa. Indeed, highly fecund individuals in ants, bees and termites can live up to two orders of magnitude longer than their sterile workers. Uncovering the molecular basis of this escape from ageing will provide a deeper understanding of the fundamental biological rules governing fecundity, longevity, senescence, and health.

New Publication

© Nature

Publication of the sea grass (Zostera marina) genome paper in Nature. The collaborative effort revealed key adaptations of a flowering plant that returned to the ocean. Such adaptations include the loss of some genes, such as stomatal genes, and the gain of ancestrally present functions such as full salinity tolerance.

Olsen J. L. et al. (2016): The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea. Nature, published online 27 January 2016; doi:10.1038/nature16548

The DFG has funded the Research Unit Sociality and the reversal of the fecundity/longevity trade-of

© BornbergLab

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has funded the Research Unit Sociality and the reversal of the fecundity/longevity trade-off, an interdisciplinary collaboration including the Bornberglab. The research unit will address the fundamental questions in biology "Why do organism age?" and "Why do individuals vary in life expectancy?" A hallmark of ageing is the trade-off between fecundity and longevity, although reversals of this trade-off independently evolved in several distant social insect taxa. Indeed, highly fecund individuals in ants, bees and termites can live up to two orders of magnitude longer than their sterile workers. Uncovering the molecular basis of this escape from ageing will provide a deeper understanding of the fundamental biological rules governing fecundity, longevity, senescence, and health.

  • 2015

    New Publication

    Tribolium Klein

    A new publication by the Kurtz group shows that red flour beetles react with an immune activation and the release of cryptic genetic variation through reduced expression of heat shock protein 90 when there are wounded conspecifics in the group. Click here for details. The article has also been covered by the american magazine 'The Atlantic'.


    Wir suchen motivierte Master-Studierende, die ihre MSc-Arbeit im Bereich der Wirt-Parasit-Coevolution an den Modellarten Mehlkäfer (Tribolium castaneum) und/oder Fruchtfliege (Drosophila melanogaster) durchführen möchten. Wir interessieren uns beispielsweise für die Rolle des Dscam-Gens im Immunsystem dieser Insekten und Sie würden dazu unter anderem RNAi-basierte Knock-down Experimente durchführen. Voraussetzung ist Erfahrung mit molekularen Methoden. Bei Interesse melden Sie sich bitte bei Prof. Joachim Kurtz (

    We are looking for motivated MSc-Students, who are interested in joining the Animal Evolutionary Ecology Group (Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz) for a MSc thesis, working on host-parasite coevolution. Our model organisms are both the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Potential topics could be the role of the DScam gene in the immune system of these insects, which you would investigate by molecular methods, such as RNAi-based knock-downs. Prerequisites are experiences in molecular methods. If you are interested, please contact the group leader Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz

    Talk of Prof. Joachim Kurtz at the "Kinder-Uni"

    Kinderuni Mg 5262 1 1
    © WWU - Judith Kraft

    Prof. Joachim Kurtz (Animal Evolutionary Ecology) held a lecture entitled "Woher stammen wir? Wie sich das Leben auf der Erde entwickelt hat" at the University for young people from the age of 8-12 on Friday, 17 April 2015. The talk was part of the "Kinder-Uni" (children's university), which is organized by the University of Münster in cooperation with the "Westfälische Nachrichten". The event series is open for third through sixth grade students and aims to stimulate young people’s interest in science. More information

    Frei Plätze im FGM “Subalpine und alpine Vegetation temperater Hochgebirge am Beispiel der Zentralalpen mit Exkursion ins Ötztal“

    Folgende Studiengänge können an diesem Modul mit Alpenexkursion teilnehmen:

    • MEd GHR
    • MEdGymGes/BK
    • MSc Biowissenschaften
    • MSc Biotechnologie
    • MSc Molekulare Biomedizin
    Weitere Informationen finden Sie  hier