Welcome to the Animal Evolutionary Ecology Group

AG Kurtz 2023
© AG Kurtz

We seek to understand the ecological and evolutionary consequences of host-parasite interactions from the individual to the ecosystem level. Host-parasite systems are ideal models for studying evolution in action, because hosts and parasites evolve very fast. So, host-parasite interactions provide us with great opportunities to study coevolution and eco-evolutionary feedbacks.

In our group, we use natural and experimental populations of the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum), three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), and Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) to address three general questions relevant to ecological immunology, parasitology and even evolutionary medicine:

  • How does the immune system evolve?
  • How does the evolution of immunological and physiological traits shape co-evolution?
  • What are the eco-evolutionary consequences of host-parasite interactions?

We combine theoretical models, natural history, field, and laboratory experiments. The evolution of immunity to parasites has been a major but not exclusive focus of our group. Currently, we are investigating:

  1. The evolutionary ecology consequences of immune specificity and immune memory in the red flour beetle.
  2. The role of niche construction and evolutionary capacitance for evolvability in the red flour beetle.
  3. Genetic and phenotypic characterization of immunological niche conformance in cavefish
  4. Niche construction consequences of parasite virulence in evo-evolutionary dynamics.


Our model systems

Research: We study the ecology and evolution consequences of host-parasite interactions using red flour beetles, three-spined sticklebacks, Mexican cavefish, and their parasites.

Teaching activities: Our teaching activities encompass courses for the Bachelor (e.g. Evolution & Biodiversity of Animals, Animal Evolutionary Ecology) and the Master curriculum (e.g. Host-Parasite-Coevolution, Evolutionary Medicine).

Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz is our group leader, also serving as spokesman of both the:

DFG Research Training Group EvoPAD

Münster Graduate School of Evolution (MGSE)