Mohammed Errbii

PhD Student

© Nicolas Schröder

Molecular Evolution and Sociobiology Group
Institute for Evolution & Biodiversity
University of Münster
Hüfferstr. 1
48149 Münster, Germany
Tel.: +49 251/83-21659

Nationality: Moroccan Ma


  • 2016:
    Master of Science (M. Sc.) in Microbial Biotechnology with honors, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fez, Morocco
  • 2014:
    Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) in Life Sciences, Biology and Health with honors, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fez, Morocco

Work experience

  • 2016 - 2018:
    Responsible at an organism managing public health insurance, Morocco


  • Dennis AB, Ballesteros GI, Robin S, Schrader L, Bast J, Berghöfer J, Beukeboom LW, Belghazi M, Bretaudeau A, Buellesbach J, Cash E, Colinet D, Dumas Z, Errbii M, Falabella P, Gatti JL, Geuverink E, Gibson JD, Hertaeg C, Hartmann S, Jacquin-Joly E, Lammers M, Lavandero BI, Lindenbaum I, Massardier-Galata L, Meslin C, Montagné N, Pak N, Poirié M, Salvia R, Smith CR, Tagu D, Tares S, Vogel H, Schwander T, Simon JC, Figueroa C, Vorburger C, Legeai F, Gadau J (2020) Functional insights from the GC-poor genomes of two aphid parasitoids, Aphidius ervi and Lysiphlebus fabarum. BMC Genomics 21(1):


  • Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gadau, Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, Molecular Evolution and Sociobiology Group, University of Münster
  • Dr. Lukas Schrader, Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, Molecular Evolution and Sociobiology Group, University of Münster
  • PD. Dr. Jan Oettler, Institute for Zoology/Evolutionary Biology, University of Regensburg

Research interests

  • Adaptive evolution
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Population genomics

PhD project description

Rapid adaptive change through high recombination rate and rearrangement in the invasive species Cardiocondyla obscurior

The success of invasive species has fascinated evolutionary biologists for decades due to their ecological and economic impacts. As a consequence of genetic bottlenecks, invasive species often have a reduced genetic variation following introduction (Stapley et al., 2015). In spite of this limited genetic variation, which is known to be a limiting factor in species adaptation and evolution (Frankham, 2004), invasive species can rapidly colonize and adapt to new habitats. This raises the question of how successful invaders cope with this supposedly detrimental low genetic variation following introduction. During invasion, populations experience large environmental changes that may facilitate species adaptation by inducing structural and functional variations. This may occur via interaction with structural units such as transposable elements (Stapley et al., 2015). Intriguingly, invasive species such as ants and other social Hymenoptera have the highest rates of recombination and genomic rearrangements in all animals studied so far (Wilfert et al., 2007). However, the role of these processes in the rapid adaption of these species is still poorly understood.

Hypothesis: Increased rates of recombination and genomic rearrangements in invasive species such as ants are associated with their rapid adaptation to novel habitats and environments.

Model system: Cardiocondyla obscurior  provides a suitable model to study species adaptation to new environments in spite of low genetic diversity in incipient populations. Originally from Southeast Asia, C. obscurior has successfully established populations in worm climates across the globe.

Tools & available resources:
- Natural populations from Brazil and Japan breeding in the lab.
- A reference genome of C. obscurior (less than 200 Mb) (Schrader et al., 2014).
- Low-resolution recombination map and thousands of already indentified structural variants.
- Manipulation of gene expression with RNAi.
- Whole genome resequencing and RAD-sequencing.

Aims of the project:
Aim 1: Construct high-resolution recombination maps in two invasive populations with distinct phenotypes (from Japan and Brazil). This experiment will allow us to understand the interactions between genome structure, recombination, transposable elements and novel genetic variation, and how this may contribute to the rapid adaptation in this species.
Aim 2: Analyse single nucleotide polymorphism and structural variations between four invasive populations (from Japan, Taiwan and two from Brazil). This will allow us to understand how genetic variation necessary for adaption to novel habitats is generated in response to new environmental conditions.
Aim 3: Test the function of candidate loci affected by environmental-induced structural variation, using gene function assays (RNAi), to confirm their role in the rapid adaptation in this species.

This PhD project will contribute to our understanding of how invasive species deal with environmental constraints during invasion despite their low genetic variation. Furthermore, this project will improve our understanding of the relationship between genetic variation, recombination and transposable elements.


  • Frankham, R. 2004. Resolving the genetic paradox in invasive species. Heredity, 94: 385.
  • Schrader, L., Kim, J.W., Ence, D et al. 2014. Transposable element islands facilitate adaptation to novel environments in an invasive species. Nature Communications, 5: 5495.
  • Stapley, J., Santure, A. W. and Dennis, S. R. 2015. Transposable elements as agents of rapid adaptation may explain the genetic paradox of invasive species. Mol Ecol, 24: 2241-2252.
  • Wilfert, L., Gadau, J. and Schmid-Hempel, P. 2007. Variation in genomic recombination rates among animal taxa and the case of social insects. Heredity, 98: 189-97.