News

  • 2021

    Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions | Individual Fellowship awarded to Dr. Bertrand Fouks

    Bertrand
    © Bertrand Fouks

    How genomes evolve and drive novelty is a central question in biology.
    Some of the most puzzling genomic innovations, for example the development of placenta in mammals, are triggered by Transposable Elements (TEs). TEs are small genome fragments that can move and insert in other areas of the genome, which can create or impair gene functions. Organisms have adapted mechanisms to counteract the harmful effects of TEs, notably small RNAs (e.g. piwi-interacting RNA, piRNAs). Despite increasing knowledge on the effects of TEs on genome evolution and the apparition of novel traits, how and which TEs along with their interactions with piRNAs can promote novelty remain unclear.
    The project of Dr. Fouks will shed light on this issue by investigating how TEs and piRNAs evolved and interacted in cockroaches and termites alongside the evolution of their incredible biodiversity, with an emphasis on sociality and wood feeding.
    Dr. Fouks will generate several high-resolution genomes and transcriptomes from cockroach and termite species to locate and categorize TEs and piRNAs., This will allow him to unravel their role in the adaptation of cockroaches and termites to different social levels and diets.

    New paper by the group of Prof. Dr. Shuqing Xu published in Science

    Controlled Hydroxylations Of Diterpenoids Allow For Plant Chemical Defense Without Autotoxicity
    © Li et al.

    Controlled hydroxylations of diterpenoids allow for plant chemical defense without autotoxicity

    Many plant specialized metabolites function in herbivore defense, and abrogating particular steps in their biosynthetic pathways frequently causes autotoxicity. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying their defense and autotoxicity remain unclear. Here, we show that silencing two cytochrome P450s involved in diterpene biosynthesis in the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata causes severe autotoxicity symptoms that result from the inhibition of sphingolipid biosynthesis by noncontrolled hydroxylated diterpene derivatives. Moreover, the diterpenes’ defensive function is achieved by inhibiting herbivore sphingolipid biosynthesis through postingestive backbone hydroxylation products. Thus, by regulating metabolic modifications, tobacco plants avoid autotoxicity and gain herbivore defense. The postdigestive duet that occurs between plants and their insect herbivores can reflect the plant’s solutions to the “toxic waste dump” problem of using potent chemical defenses.

    For the full paper, please click here.


    Online article on WWU news page (english)
    Online article on WWU news page (german)


  • 2020

    Announcement

    STOP
    © WWU


    The worldwide day of action on 25 November recalls the high level of violence against women. The Federal Minister for Women's Affairs, Dr. Franziska Giffey, is calling for the help line to be made public on this day to show those affected a way out of violence.
    The University of Münster is again participating in this campaign this year. In a large photo campaign, numerous departments and central units have clearly positioned themselves against violence against women.

    You can find more information here



    Der weltweite Aktionstag am 25. November erinnert an das hohe Ausmaß von Gewalt gegen Frauen. Bundesfrauenministerin Dr. Franziska Giffey ruft dazu auf, anlässlich dieses Tages das Hilfetelefon bekanntzumachen und so Betroffenen einen Ausweg aus der Gewalt zu zeigen.
    Die Universität Münster wirkt auch in diesem Jahr wieder an dieser Aktion mit. In einer großen Fotoaktion haben sich zahlreiche Fachbereiche und zentrale Einheiten deutlich gegen Gewalt an Frauen positioniert.

    Mehr informationen finden Sie hier

    Pupils visited the IEB

    Pupils
    © Uli Ernst

    In October 2020, 28 pupils of Gesamtschule Münster Mitte visited the IEB (University Münster) and learned what is driving the female and male scientists. Ants, termites, proteins, computer programs – the pupils and scientists were excited- too bad there was not enough time to answer all questions! So pupils should come back soon and visit again!

    Job Announcement

    Hiring-3531130 1920
    © Mohammed Hassan

    The Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity (IEB) in the Facultyof Biology at the University of Münster, Germany, is seeking to fill apermanent position for a Scientific Staff
    (einer Studienrätin/eines Studienrates im Hochschuldienst), Salary Level A13, 100%

    The teaching obligation associated with this position is 13-17 (hours of instruction per weekduring semester), depending on the other general tasks assigned to the position. The weekly working time is currently 41 hours. The primarily obligations associated with the position involve teaching in the area of Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, in particular organizing and running modules for the Bachelor of Biology, Master’s of Science and Master’s of Education in German and English. The successful candidate will also be heavily involved in the statistical education of bachelor, master’s and doctoral students in the Faculty of Biology. They will also take over general tasks at the IEB according to her/his past experience. In addition to teaching, the candidate is encouraged to develop their own research program in collaboration with colleagues at the IEB and Faculty of Biology and acquire third party funding. Requirements for this position are a university degree and a doctoral degree in biology, physics, chemistry or mathematics, as well as comprehensive experience in theoretical evolutionary biology (e.g. statistical methods, modelling, etc.). To be eligible for “Beamtenverhältnis”(German civil servant status) according to § 45 LVO, the candidate needs to be able to prove employment for 3 years and 6 months after finishing her/his university degree or for 1 year after completing a doctoral degree. If the requirements are not yet fulfilled, the candidate can instead be employed as a public servant (TV-L E13) and change to the status of “Beamtenverhältnis”at a later stage. If the employee does not fulfill the requirements for a “Beamtenverhältnis” she/he can be permanently employed as a public servant (TV-L E13).
    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.

    Applications including a CV, certificates of university and doctoral degrees, and details of teaching experience and publications should be sent by email as a single PDF file to evolecol@uni-muenster.de by 1 September 2020.

    For the original job announcement in German please click here

    Tze Hann Ng of AG Kurtz featured on WWU main page

    11174-2wp0sxh4-webl
    © WWU - Peter Leßmann

    Tiny animals with surprising characteristics

    Biologist Tze Hann Ng studies how copepods react to parasites.
    For more than a year now, at the University of Münster, she has been studying the mechanisms of the immune system of these tiny animals. Even before she came to Germany on a fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation, she was interested in aquatic creatures while working in her previous lab in Taiwan – although there she examined the larger “siblings”, shrimps and crayfish.

    Original article in the University newspaper wissen|leben  (in German)
    Online article on WWU news page



    Humboldt Fellowship for Dr. Anna Grandchamp

    Annag _2_
    © Anna Grandchamp

    Since several years it is known that new proteins not only arise via gene duplication and variation of the duplicates but also de novo, i.e. from previously non-coding DNA.
    An important first step in the creation of these de novo genes is that some of the zillions of randomly generated transcripts have some, though very weak, inherent function or are at least not toxic to the cell and are not quickly lost again.
    In her project, Dr. Grandchamp will investigate how often new random transcripts are created, by which mechanisms they are created and what the initial function of the new proteins might be.
    She plans to use in-bred lines of fly populations collected from all over Europe as well as of closely related fly species and map their transcriptomes onto the newly sequenced genomes to precisely characterise the creation and loss of de novo genes.

    For Anna Grandchamp's homepage click here
    For more information on the Humboldt Fellowship click here

    SAFIR research funding for two IEB students

    Safir News
    © Aileen Seipelt

    Marek Golian and Nicolas Schröder successfully applied for SAFIR student research grants allowing them to pursue their own long-term research projects.
    Marek will investigate the impact of surface microbes on the chemical profile of the parasitoid wasp Nasonia, while Nicolas will conduct phylogenetic and comparative genomic analyses to study the evolution of host-beneficial microbes in insects.

    New study by AG Kurtz members Robert Peuß and Jörn Scharsack featured on WWU cover page

    11155-f7y5v1ls-webl
    © Stowers Institute for Medical Research

    Cavefish have fewer cells of the innate immune system

    Cavefish are small, live in tucked away places humans rarely go, and they’re common enough that you can find them on every continent except Antarctica. But they also have another characteristic that seems surprising at first glance: They can tell researchers something about the occurrence of autoimmune diseases in humans. Because similar to people, cavefish live in an environment with a reduced number of parasites. Unlike people, however, cavefish have had much more time – about 150,000 years – to adapt to these conditions. To learn more about how a low-parasite environment may shape the evolution of a host’s immune system, an international team of researchers led by the Stowers Institute for Medical Research examined the impact of decreased parasite abundance and infection on the evolution of the cavefish immune system.

    The scientists under participation of Dr. Robert Peuß and Dr. Jörn P. Scharsack from the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity characterized the cavefish immune system and how it responds to threats, compared to that of closely-related river fish from a parasite-rich environment. Their findings show that cavefish differ in their sensitivity toward immune stimulants and have a different composition of immune cells, including a reduction of cells of the innate immune system that play a role in inflammation.

    In future studies, the scientists hope to identify genetic factors involved in cavefish immune system evolution. This research could provide clues about the development of immune system disorders and potentially human autoimmune diseases, where the immune system attacks its own body. The study has been published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution”.


    For the WWU press release, please click here

    For the original article, please click here.

    Peuß et al. (2020): Adaptation to low parasite abundance affects immune investment and immunopathological responses of cavefish. Nature Ecology & Evolution; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1234-2


    New study by the group of Jürgen Gadau on functional insights from genomes of two aphid parasitoids

    Paper News Agg 10 06 20
    © Dennis et al. /BMC Genomics

    Background

    Parasitoid wasps have fascinating life cycles and play an important role in trophic networks, yet little is known about their genome content and function. Parasitoids that infect aphids are an important group with the potential for biocontrol. Their success depends on adapting to develop inside aphids and overcoming both host aphid defenses and their protective endosymbionts.

    Results
    We present the de novo genome assemblies, detailed annotation, and comparative analysis of two closely related parasitoid wasps that target pest aphids: Aphidius ervi and Lysiphlebus fabarum (Hymenoptera: Braconidae: Aphidiinae). The genomes are small (139 and 141 Mbp), highly syntenic, and the most AT-rich reported thus far for any arthropod (GC content: 25.8% and 23.8%). This nucleotide bias is accompanied by skewed codon usage and is stronger in genes with adult-biased expression. AT-richness may be the consequence of reduced genome size, a near absence of DNA methylation, and energy efficiency. We identify missing desaturase genes, whose absence may underlie mimicry in the cuticular hydrocarbon profile of L. fabarum. We also find that absence of some immune genes (Toll and Imd pathways) resembles similar losses in their aphid hosts, highlighting the potential impact of symbiosis on both aphids and their parasitoids.


    Conclusions
    These findings are of fundamental interest for insect evolution and beyond. This will provide a strong foundation for further functional studies including coevolution with respect to their hosts, the basis of successful infection, and biocontrol. Both genomes are available at https://bipaa.genouest.org.


    For the full paper, please click here.

    Dennis, A.B., Ballesteros, G.I., Robin, S. et al. Functional insights from the GC-poor genomes of two aphid parasitoids, Aphidius ervi and Lysiphlebus fabarum. BMC Genomics 21, 376 (2020).

    Software development to facilitate reproducible research

    Ben Stoever
    © privat

    At a workshop orginized by the WWU "Opening Reproducible Research" (o2r) team the Evolution and Biodiversity of Plants group presented how software components can help to improve reproducibility of scientific workflows.

    Here is an excerpt of an article by Dr. Ben Stöver, research group Evolution and Biodiversity of Plants (Prof. Dr. Kai Müller)

    The annotation of scientific data with metadata documenting how raw data was generated and which analysis steps lead to derived data, offers an efficient way to improve the reproducibility of scientific studies. Phylogenetic trees (representing evolutionary relationships, e.g., between species) – as an example – are often inferred from DNA sequences of different species, which in turn were sequenced from tissue samples from specimens (e.g., collected plants). Ideally, a published phylogenetic tree would contain metadata that links a specific archived specimen for each species and the sequence generated from it, as well as metadata to document the analysis steps and the software used to reconstruct the tree. This principle of annotation can also be applied to other data types and can therefore be used in many areas of science.

    Although file formats (e.g., NeXML) that enable appropriate annotation of trees and other phylogenetic data were developed years ago, they are still used relatively little compared to older formats that do not allow this. To change this, we at the group for Plant Evolution and Biodiversity (Prof. Dr. Kai Müller) are developing a number of different software components that make it as easy as possible for scientists to use the new file formats and the necessary annotation. At the same time, the interoperability with existing analysis software is ensured, even if it does not yet support the corresponding formats itself. Specifically, we develop graphical editors for biologists to easily process and annotate the main data types of phylogenetics, as well as, software libraries for easy reuse in other bioinformatics software. Our software is freely available at http://bioinfweb.info/.

    See the full article here: https://www.uni-muenster.de/news/view.php?cmdid=10847

    Evolution of an adaptive and novel floral volatile

    Many flowering plants produce highly diverse and specific floral scents that are important for mediating interactions with their pollinators and/or herbivores. The well-known fitness effects and extraordinary diversity of floral scents provide an excellent system for studying the evolution of novel adaptive traits in plants. However, very few studies have revealed how plants evolve new floral scents.

    In this study, a group of scientists from Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and University of Münster uncovered the biosynthetic machinery and evolution of a species-specific nocturnal floral volatile of a wild tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata): benzyl acetone (BA), a compound that mediates both pollinator attraction and florivore deterrence. They demonstrated that three genes, NaPAL4, NaIFR3, and NaCHAL3 are sufficient and necessary for the BA biosynthesis in N. attenuata. They also found that while independent changes in transcription in all three genes contributed to intraspecific variations of floral BA emission, the gain of expression of NaIFR3 resulted in the biosynthesis of BA, which was only found in N. attenuata. Because NaIFR3 evolved from a gene duplication that occurred earlier than the diversification of Nicotiana, this study provided an example that novel metabolic pathways can arise via altering the expression of existing genes.

    The study not only revealed how novel adaptive traits have been evolved, but also shows different genetic mechanisms are involved in intra- and interspecific variations of adaptive traits. Scientists found that while all three biosynthetic genes contributed to the intraspecific variations of floral BA emission, only the expression changes in NaIFR3 contributed to differences in floral BA emission among closely related species. The results indicate that adaptive traits might evolve differently between and within species.

    The study showed that a new metabolic pathway can arise via expression changes in a single gene. Such mechanism might not only explain the evolution of amazing diversity of specialized metabolites in plants, but also demonstrated the potential of using metabolic engineering in crop development and protection.

    Original Publication:

    Han Guo, Nathalie D Lackus, Tobias G Köllner, Ran Li, Julia Bing, Yangzi Wang, Ian T Baldwin, Shuqing Xu, Evolution of a Novel and Adaptive Floral Scent in Wild Tobacco, Molecular Biology and Evolution, , msz292, https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msz292

  • 2019

    Conference on Freshwater Sciences, 23.-27. September, 2019

    Daphnia Pulex
    © Bettina Zeis

    The German Limnological Society in cooperation with the WWU Münster invites to the freshwater conference wasser.leben.zukunft (water.life.future), taking place from 23rd-27th September 2019 at the University of Münster. Conference venue is the Fürstenberghaus. According to the motto participants will discuss current findings and future topics and global challenges we face in the field of freshwater sciences, spanning from classical limnology, organismic biology, and ecosystem ecology to innovative approaches in fundamental and applied science, accompagnied by best practice examples. Focal areas of talks and poster sessions are, among others, consequences of climate change, conservation and managing of freshwater ecosystems and biota, aquatic biodiversity, multiple stressors including neobiota, and aquatic ecotoxicology. Science communication and knowledge transfer are addressed as well. Conference language is German, yet a whole session („Zooplankton meets environmental challenges: insights from Daphnia) and various talks and posters are in English.
    The side programme comprises a public evening lecture (Sept. 23th: „Climate under change !? - Satellite images show the global change“), a microscopy workshop („Leben im Aasee“) organized by Msc. Biosciences-students, a Pubquiz Special around limnological topics, organized by the Fachschaft Biologie, and various excursions in the Münsterland region at Friday, 27th. As a novelty, two Master students will maintain a Blog with daily reports, fotos etc. about the conference.

    Conference homepage

    Raising future scientists

    M _rzh _user Schule 2
    © Jenny Märzhäuser

    In May 2019 the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity contributed to a climate change project with the Montessori-Schule Münster e.V.. Together with the teachers Msc. student Jenny Märzhäuser of the Molecular Evolution and Sociobiology group of Prof. Jürgen Gadau organized a project concerning climate change for the older school classes as part of a research module. Therefore, differing topics on the terms climate und man-made climate change had to be worked out in groups and presented in various self-chosen ways. The students developed posters, flyers, presentations, short movies, games and even a fuel cell model car. They presented their several week-long work to the younger classes, which were eager to ask their prepared research questions about climate change. Young and old became very impressed by the importance of manmade climate change for our future and our environment through this exciting day.

    Dr. Susann Wicke receives young talent award

    The University Society Münster has honored the outstanding research achievements of two young scientists of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU): In a ceremony the physician Prof. Dr.  Maged Alnawaiseh and biologist Dr. Susann Wicke received this years award for the promotion of young scientists. The awards are endowed with 5,000 euros each provided by the University of Münster.

    Full article




    Get animal researchers as experts in schools, clubs or groups

    Biologists start the program "e-vite a prof!" at the University of Münster

    How do animals think and feel? Are there pessimists and optimists among them? How does the environment affect their well-being? Animal researchers investigate all this at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU). If you want to learn more about these and other exciting topics, you do not have to go on nature trips or to the lab. With the new program "e-vite a prof!" ("Invite a Professor") scientists of our department will now come to all interested parties and talk about their research results - in schools, clubs or in other groups.

    Full article




    Frontiers in Plant Science published a new study from Shuqing Xu’s group

    Machine Learning
    © Shuqing Xu

    Frontiers in Plant Science published a new study from Shuqing Xu’s group entitled: Evolution of alternative splicing in Eudicots. Using a machine learning approach, the authors uncovered the underlying mechanisms that contributed to the differences of alternative splicing among species.

    Original publication:
    Ling, Z., Brockmöller, T., Baldwin, I. T. & Xu, S. (2019). Evolution of alternative splicing in eudicots. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10, 707.; DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00707

    New publication on sexual conflict out in PNAS

    Members of the Fricke Group co-authored study on male manipulation of female postmating responses
    © Mareike Koppik

    Duckweed: The low-down on a tiny plant

    Low mutation rates contribute to low genetic diversity in duckweeds / Study in "Nature Communications"
    Entengr _tze _klaus J.jpeg
    © Klaus J. Appenroth

    Science Pub was held by Joachim Kurtz on host-parasite coevolution

    New study by Eriksson and Gadau

    © Ti Eriksson
  • 2015

    MSc-Arbeiten

    Molecular Evolution & Bioinformatics Group In Public Media

    Group 2015

    Talk of Prof. Joachim Kurtz at the "Kinder-Uni"

    Kinderuni Mg 5262 1 1
    © WWU - Judith Kraft

    Frei Plätze im FGM “Subalpine und alpine Vegetation temperater Hochgebirge am Beispiel der Zentralalpen mit Exkursion ins Ötztal“

    Bachelorarbeiten / Bachelor Theses 2015