Welcome to the Animal Evolutionary Ecology Group

AG Kurtz 2022
© 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

© Kurtz

Latest news

We are part of the DFG funded Priority Programme "Genomic Basis of Evolutionary Innovations (SPP 2349 GEvol)" - JOB AVAILABLE (see below)

45,000 students and 8,000 employees in teaching, research and administration, all working together to shape perspectives for the future – that is the University of Münster (WWU). Embedded in the vibrant atmosphere of Münster with its high standard of living, the University’s diverse research profile and attractive study programmes draw students and researchers throughout Germany and from around the world.

The Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity at the University of Münster, Germany, invites applications for the position of a


Doctoral Research Associate (PhD position)

Wissenschaftliche/r Mitarbeiter/in

(salary level TV-L E 13, 65%)


We are offering this fixed-term part-time position (65% FTE) within the research group of Prof J Kurtz for 3 years, starting at the earliest possible date.


Your tasks:

This research project focuses on the evolutionary flexibility of epigenetic regulation in insects. Even within the group of beetles, some species rely on CpG methylation, while other species have lost the relevant DNA methyltransferases (Dnmt genes). Using beetles as models, our project aims to understand the evolution of epigenetic regulation systems, elucidate the alternative functions of DNA methyltransferases and assess the mutual dependences between DNA methylation and histone modification.

The successful candidate will make use of the combined power of sequencing technology to analyse epigenetic processes (Methyl-Seq, Cut&Tag, RNAseq) and functional validation (RNAi) in up to ten beetle species. The candidate will collaborate intensively with a PhD student from Prof Sonja Prohaska’s research group at the University of Leipzig, who will contribute expertise in bioinformatics.

The project is part of the Priority Programme “Genomic Basis of Evolutionary Innovations (SPP 2349 GEvol)” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The goal of GEvol is to collaboratively and interdisciplinarily exploit new computational and OMICS methods to reveal the history of genomes in the insect taxon through comparative genomics.


Our expectations:

Applicants should be highly motivated scientists interested in interdisciplinary work. They should have the equivalent of a master’s degree in biology, preferentially with a focus on evolution, molecular biology, genomics or a related field. A background, and ideally some experience, in any of the following areas will be useful: molecular laboratory skills, functional genomics and/or practical insect work. Applicants should have excellent communication skills and be able to work both independently and as part of a multidisciplinary team. The working language of the Institute and the lab is English, therefore good proficiency in spoken and written English is a requirement. German language skills are not a requirement, but a willingness to learn is desirable.


Advantages for you:

The Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity provides a stimulating research environment with a number of scientific groups researching diverse topics centred on different aspects of evolution. As a part of the Priority Programme GEvol (SPP 2349) the project will involve intensive collaboration with consortium partners across Germany.

The University of Münster is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the proportion of women academics. Consequently, we actively encourage applications by women. Female candidates with equivalent qualifications and academic achievements will be preferentially considered within the framework of the legal possibilities.

The University of Münster is committed to employing more staff with disabilities. Candidates with recognised severe disabilities who have equivalent qualifications are given preference in hiring decisions.

Positions can generally be filled as part-time positions if there are no compelling work-related reasons against doing so.

Are you interested?

Then we look forward to receiving your application, written in English, in one single PDF file, by 9 September 2022. Applications should be sent to Prof Joachim Kurtz at: joachim.kurtz@uni-muenster.de. Please note that we cannot consider other file formats. Applications should include 1) a cover letter with a statement of research interests and motivation (max. 1 page), 2) a CV including details about research experience and publications, and 3) contact details for at least two referees.

The DFG-funded CRC/Transregio SFB/TRR 212 (NC3) is being prolonged

The CRC/Transregio “A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution: Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction (NC3)” has been running since 2018 and has now been prolonged until 2025. It is a research alliance between the Universities of Bielefeld and Münster in the fields of Behavior, Ecology and Evolution. The aim of NC3 is to define and establish the concept of ‘niche’ at the level of the individual organism. NC3 is led by Prof. Oliver Krüger (Bielefeld) as the spokesperson and Prof. Joachim Kurtz (Münster, IEB) as the vice spokesperson. Five of the 20 research project funded within NC3 are in the IEB, and address niche choice, niche conformance and niche construction in diverse organisms. A number of PhD and postdoc position are now available within these projects.

Press release of the WWU: https://www.uni-muenster.de/news/view.php?cmdid=12203

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)