Parasites can alter behaviour of their hosts’ social environment

2018-06-21 Sticklebacks
© Public domain

Many parasites have evolved strategies to manipulate the behaviour of their host, e.g., risk-taking behaviour, to facilitate transmission to the next host. MGSE PhD student Nicolle Demandt was now involved in a study, which revealed that behavioural manipulation by parasites does not only affect the infected host, but also uninfected group members. Nicolle and her colleagues tested how three-spined sticklebacks, behaviourally altered by infections with the tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus, influenced the escape and risk-taking behaviour of uninfected group members after a simulated bird attack. Interestingly, uninfected individuals adjusted their risk-taking behaviour to the number of infected group members, taking more risk with an increasing number of infected group members. This result sheds new light on the social dynamics involved in host–parasite interactions. The results have been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Demandt N, Saus B, Kurvers RHJM, Krause J, Kurtz J & Scharsack JP (2018) Parasite-infected sticklebacks increase the risk-taking behaviour of uninfected group members. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 285 10.1098/rspb.2018.0956.  The press release of the WWU can be found here. One of Nicolle’s supervisors, Dr. Jörn Scharsack, was also interviewed by the Deutschlandfunk about the findings of the study.

Second issue of "The Eyebrow" out now

2018-06-11 Eyebrow Second Issue

The PhD students of the MGSE have just released the second issue of The Eyebrow – the student magazine for and by PhD students of the MGSE. The magazine has been launched in February 2018. Editor-in-Chief Daniel Dowling explains in the editorial of the new issue: “The Eyebrow is our attempt to promote scientific communication – be it words or pictures – in a more causal and informal style. We encourage members of the MGSE to write and discuss topics, be it there on field of research, life as a PhD student, or the crossover of science and their myriad other interests.” You can pick up your personal copy of The Eyebrow in the MGSE office building in Hüfferstr. 1a. The website of the magazine can be found here: https://eyebrowevolution.wordpress.com/

Susanne Sangenstedt awarded with PhD

2018-06-08 Graduation Ceremony Susi

Congratulations to Susanne Sangenstedt who was awarded with her doctoral degree today. Susanne conducted her PhD studies in the Department of Behavioural Biology at the Institute for Neuro- and Behavioural Biology under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Sylvia Kaiser. In her thesis she investigated “The adaptive significance of shaping behavioral and endocrine phenotypes to the early social environment”. In addition, Susanne served as PhD Student Representative in the Steering Committee of the MGSE from 2015 to 2018.
We want to thank Susanne for her commitment and wish her all the best for her future career!

ETT-Fellow Christina Grozinger arrived in Münster

2018-06-08 Christina Grozinger
© Christina Grozinger

On 4 June, Prof. Dr. Christina Grozinger arrived in Münster who will stay as a Fellow of the Evolution Think Tank until the end of July. Christina Grozinger is a Distinguished Professor of Entomology at the Huck Institutes for Life Sciences and the Director of the Center for Pollinator Research at the Pennsylvania State University in the US. In her research she examines the mechanisms underlying social behavior and health in honey bees and related species. Her research interests include social insects, pollinator health, behavioural genomics, neuroethology, chemical ecology, and disease ecology. Christina Grozinger will offer a workshop together with ETT-Fellow Michael Hennessy on "It’s not my fault: how the social environment shapes individual behaviour and vice versa” on 25 – 26 June 2018.

University of Münster thanks Santander for five years of partnership

2018-05-08 Santander Funding
© WWU – Thomas Mohn

The University of Münster joined the Santander Universities partnership five years ago and has benefited from several of its projects since then. A total of one million euros has been invested in measures for the internationalisation of research and education at the WWU. Prof. Dr. Johannes Wessels, Rector of the University of Münster, now thanked Santander for their commitment and highlighted how the funding helped to promote networking worldwide. The Evolution Think Tank of the MGSE belongs to one of currently four main projects that are supported by Santander Universities at the WWU. Press release by the WWU More on the business cooperation of the WWU with Santander Universities

ETT-Fellow Michael B. Hennessy arrived in Münster

2018-05-08 Mike Hennessy
© Department of Behavioural Biology/Sabine Kruse

Last week, Prof. Dr. Michael B. Hennessy arrived in Münster who will stay as a Fellow of the Evolution Think Tank until the end of July. Michael Hennessy is a Professor at the Department of Psychology at the Wright State University in Dayton, OH in the US. He is a trained Psychologist working in the field of Behavioural Neurosciences and Behavioural Endocrinology and has long studied the effects of social separation and social buffering in various rodent and primate species. Together with the group of Prof. Dr. Norbert Sachser and Prof. Dr. Sylvia Kaiser, he also worked on the adaptive shaping of the behavioural and neuroendocrine phenotype during different life stages, especially adolescence. Prof. Hennessy is a familiar face: He was the very first Fellow of the ETT back in 2012.

MGSE PIs demonstrate significant impact of transcriptional interference on gene expression

Csm Makalowski Brosius Img 1275 Slider F81d7334e9
© WWU/Armin Pande

Proximal promoter regions in eukaryotes are heavily transcribed yielding different types of small RNAs. Their actual function has not been completely understood and it could not be ruled out that many of them are mere by-products of gene expression. MGSE PIs Prof. Dr. Wojciech Makalowski and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Brosius now investigated capped and polyadenylated small RNA transcripts within proximal promoter regions of human RefSeq genes and demonstrated that they regulate downstream gene expression via transcriptional interference. The small transcripts act via the occlusion of otherwise productive transcription factor/DNA interactions. The results have been published in Nucleic Acids Research: Pande A et al. (2018) Transcriptional interference by small transcripts in proximal promoter regions. Nucleic Acids Research 46: 1069-1088. Press release of the WWU

MGSE PI Erich Bornberg-Bauer receives prestigious HFSP Research Grant

2018-04-09 Hfsp Grant Bornberg-bauer
© Portrait: WWU/Peter Grewer; Termites: CSIRO, licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Prof. Dr. Erich Bornberg-Bauer has been awarded with a prestigious Program Grant by the International Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Organization. The HFSP’s collaborative Research Grants are given for a broad range of projects under the umbrella theme “Complex mechanisms of living organisms”. The program funds only cutting-edge, risky projects and provides 3 years of support for international teams involving at least two countries. The selection process is highly competitive: Out of 770 proposals from 50 different countries only 31 have been selected after a multi-level selection process. Prof. Bornberg-Bauer is part of a team that will investigate the role of diet in long-lived termite reproductives. Each team member receives on average 110,000 – 125,000 USD per year. It is the third HFSP grant for Prof. Bornberg-Bauer who was selected by the HFSP Organization already in 2006 and 2013. Press release by the WWU

7th MGSE Symposium was held

2018-03-21 Mgse Symposium 2018

The 7th MGSE Symposium was held on 21 – 22 March 2018 at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity at the University of Münster. Around 60 participants attended the two-day event which again offered the graduate students the opportunity to present their research in an oral presentation or a poster. For the first time, also PhD students from the Research Training Group EvoPAD – who are associated to the MGSE – were invited to share their first results, to network with evolutionary biologists in and around Münster, and to gain presenting experience. The programme was completed by talks of four MGSE Principal Investigators and three excellent keynote speakers: On the first day, Michael Lynch – member of the National Academy of Sciences and famous for his work supporting neutral theories of evolution – focussed on evolution at the molecular level. On the second day, Leo Beukeboom and Paula Stockley gave insights into the evolution of sex determination systems and post-copulatory sexual selection.
We would like to thank all presenters and guests who helped making the MGSE symposium a great event again, showing off the diverse research within the graduate school. Programme and pictures...

"It started with some reading and talk..."

© Portrait: R. Bayersdorf; Publication: Bayersdorf et al. 2018

MGSE PI Francesco Catania recently published an article on autoimmunity and the origin of the adaptive immune system together with Robert Bayersdorf, a former MSc student of the advanced module "The Growth of the Evolutionary Thought". Robert shares now with us how this cooperation came about and draws a conclusion for student education. You can find his report here...

MGSE Speaker Jürgen Gadau joins RTG EvoPAD

20180223 New Member Gadau
© WWU/EvoPAD; Nasonia: AG Gadau

Good news from the DFG: The Grants Committee accepted MGSE Speaker Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gadau as additional Principal Investigator of the RTG EvoPAD. The acceptance comes with funding for a PhD student and equipment. The decision of the Grants Committee is based on very positive peer reviews in which Prof. Gadau is appreciated as a leading figure in the field of sociogenomics, with an excellent track record and a high profile research portfolio. The project of Prof. Gadau will try to identify and understand the gene regulatory networks that keep the interaction between nuclear and mitochondrial encoded genes functioning. Together with Prof. Gadau, 13 Principal Investigators are now involved in the doctoral training within EvoPAD.

ETT-Fellow Chris Smith publishes study supported by the MGSE

20180221 _publcrsm

ETT-Fellow Prof. Dr. Chris Smith has now published a study which was supported by the Evolution Think Tank of the MGSE. In their work, Prof. Smith and his co-authors identify a highly conserved expression pattern in an insect-only gene family, the Osiris genes, that is essential for development, but also plays a significant role in phenotypic plasticity and in immunity/ toxicity responses. Chris Smith has been a Fellow of the Evolution Think Tank from May to June 2017. The publication can be found here: Smith CR, Morandin C, Noureddine M & Pant S (2018) Conserved roles of osiris genes in insect development, polymorphism and protection. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 10.1111/jeb.13238 [doi]

PhD students launch MGSE magazine "The Eyebrow"

Eyebrow First Issue

The MGSE PhD students proudly present the very first issue of The Eyebrow – a magazine for and by PhD students of the MGSE. “It is a magazine written, edited, formatted, and ultimately yielded by PhD students of the Münster Graduate School of Evolution. We do not aim to inform, yet we will. We aim not to elucidate, but we will. We do, however, aim to entertain, by letting thoughts run freely,” describes Editor-in-Chief April Snøfrid Kleppe the vision of the magazine in the issue’s editorial. The magazine features reportages from different MGSE groups, news of future and passed events, essays as well as cartoons and riddles, providing beautiful distraction for long days in the lab. The Eyebrow is currently the only student paper at the WWU and is planned to be published quarterly. The fact that the first issue turned out as well as it is shows the potential of the upcoming issues. To convince yourself, you can pick up your copy of The Eyebrow in the MGSE office building in Hüfferstr. 1a. A PDF version of The Eyebrow in colour can be downloaded from the website of the magazine: https://eyebrowevolution.wordpress.com/

MGSE celebrates first graduate in 2018

20180209 141746

Congratulations to Kristina Wensing who was awarded with her doctoral degree on 9 February 2018. Kristina conducted her PhD studies at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity in the group of Dr. Claudia Fricke. In her thesis she investigated "Sex-specific contributions of sexual selection and sexual conflict to male-female coevolution in Drosophila melanogaster".
We wish Kristina all the best for her future career!

Insights into molecular basis of termite eusociality

© WWU/Peter Leßmann

Termites evolved eusociality - the reproductive division of labour with overlapping generations and cooperative brood care - independently from and long before social Hymenoptera. A team of researchers led by MGSE PI Prof. Dr. Erich Bornberg-Bauer could now show evolutionary signatures of termite eusociality by comparing the genomes and transcriptomes of three termites and the German cockroach against the background of 16 other eusocial and non-eusocial insects. Their result provide further evidence that major changes in gene regulation and the evolution of sophisticated chemical communication are fundamental to the transition to eusociality in insects. Although this parallels molecular mechanisms of eusocial evolution in Hymenoptera, the specific solutions are remarkably different, thus revealing a striking case of convergent evolution. Original Publication: Harrison MC et al. (2018) Hemimetabolous genomes reveal molecular basis of termite eusociality. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 10.1038/s41559-017-0459-1 [doi]. The press release by the WWU can be found here.

SWR2 broadcast on parasites with MGSE PI Joachim Kurtz

Ql Stichling
© IEB - Animal Evolutionary Ecology Group

MGSE PI Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz and Dr. Jörn Scharsack from the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity contributed to a broadcast on the role of parasites as „global players" in ecosystems on SWR2. The podcast and further information can be found here.