Reshma R

PhD Student


Animal Evolutionary Ecology
Institute for Evolution & Biodiversity
University of Münster
Hüfferstr. 1
48149 Münster, Germany
Tel.: +49 251/83-21096

Nationality: Indian


  • Since 2018:
    PhD in the Institute for Evolution & Biodiversity, University of Münster, Germany
  • 2013 - 2018:
    BS-MS dual degree (Biology majors), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, India


  • Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz, Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, Animal Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Münster
  • Prof. Dr. Caroline Müller, Department of Chemical Ecology, Bielefeld University
  • Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gadau, Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, Molecular Evolution and Sociobiology, University of Münster

Research interests

  • Insect immunity
  • Evolutionary capacitance
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Animal behaviour

PhD project description

The role of evolutionary capacitance for evolvability in the Red Flour Beetle, Tribolium castaneum

Evolutionary adaptation is limited by the random appearance of new genetic variants, which are mostly negative. But it can be much faster than expected from classical population genetics theory. Evolutionary Capacitance (the storage and release of genetic variation, which may help to sustain fitness
under stressful environmental conditions) could be key to a novel understanding of this rapid adaptation. This process which modify the complex genotype‐phenotype‐environment relationship is assumed to enhance evolvability. In the Red Flour Beetle Tribolium castaneum, evolutionary capacitance
is closely connected to the threat of pathogenic infection as it has been shown that the naïve individuals reduce the expression of a genetic capacitor, HSP90 in the presence of wounded conspecifics in a group of beetles. The resulting release of cryptic genetic variation is expected to enhance evolvability. Also
previous works have shown that the red flour beetles show individual immune responses, in particular immune priming. In my project, we are checking if the individualized immune experience of beetles (wounding and priming) lead to the release of cryptic genetic variation in the offsprings of normal
conspecifics upon cohabitation. The release of the cryptic genetic variation will be tested using the screening of morphological variations, checking for possible behavioural variations and also screening the variation in gene expression. Using the long term experimental evolution, we are planning to test
how the reduction of HSP90 in the beetles can lead to a faster adaptation to the biotic as well as abiotic selection pressures, bacterial exposure and increased temperature respectively.