Head of Department (Director)

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Prof. Dr. Manfred Milinski

Scientific Member
Phone:+49 4522 763 254Fax:+49 4522 763 310

Office

Britta Baron

Phone:+49 4522 763 253Fax:+49 4522 763 310
Email:baron@...

Research Group Leaders

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Dr. Lutz Becks

Research Group Leader
Phone:+49 4522 763 230Fax:+49 4522 763 310
Email:becks@...
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Dr. Martin Kalbe

Research Group Leader
Phone:+49 4522 763 256Fax:+49 4522 763 310
Email:kalbe@...
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Dr. Tobias L. Lenz

Research Group Leader
Phone:+49 4522 763-228Fax:+49 4522 763-310
Email:lenz@...

Department Evolutionary Ecology (Milinski)

Department Evolutionary Ecology

The department has three main research areas:

(1) The evolution of sex and mate choice. The widespread occurrence of sexual reproduction is still an unresolved problem in evolutionary biology. Both sexual reproduction and mate choice may be strategies in the co-evolutionary arms race between hosts and parasites. With the model organism three-spined stickleback we study with methods from immunology, immuno-genetics, molecular biology, parasitology, behavioural ecology and population/field ecology whether mate choice continuously optimises the resistance of the offspring against ever changing natural parasites in lab and field experiments. We further study whether this process can maintain the enormous polymorphism of the MHC-immunogenes of vertebrates through a process called negative-frequency-dependent selection. With its pleiotropic role in parasite resistance and mate choice the MHC provides an exceptional tool to study host-parasite co-evolution and ultimately understand the maintenance of sexual reproduction. Based on field surveys and lab experiments, we investigate the evolution of MHC genes under parasite-mediated selection. Furthermore, because they occur in rivers, lakes and the Baltic sea, sticklebacks offer an intriguing opportunity to investigate immuno-genetic local adaptation and the role of MHC in speciation.

(2) The evolution of complex parasite life-cycles. Many parasites, including some of medical and veterinary importance, use several hosts within their life cycle. This life style is an evolutionary paradox, because the likelihood of completing a life cycle presumably decreases as it becomes more complex. Why then do some parasites use multiple hosts when a direct, one-host life cycle would be easier to complete? Moreover, once parasites have adopted a complex life cycle, how do they maximize their fitness? These and related questions are being addressed using the tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus as a model system.

(3) The evolution of cooperation. The problem of sustaining a public resource that everybody is free to overuse emerges in many social dilemmas. We obviously overuse public goods, e.g., by over fishing oceans, driving pension and health insurance systems to bankrupt or risking the collapse of the global climate through unlimited use of fossil energy. These are showpieces of the ‘tragedy of the commons’, for which Hardin envisaged only inevitable breakdown. Public goods experiments, i.e. the experimental paradigm to study such problems, usually confirm that the collective benefit will not be produced. Because individuals and countries often participate in several social games simultaneously, the interaction of these games may provide a sophisticated way by which to maintain the public resource. In collaboration with the MPI for Meteorology we applied this approach to test whether humans are willing to invest in sustaining the global climate and found surprising results.

Our research is motivated by an interest in understanding how communities respond to changes in genetic diversity, rapid evolution, changes in intrinsic and extrinsic parameters, and food web structure. We seek to link genetic and phenotypic variation to population dynamics, to understand the ecological consequences of evolutionary processes and the evolutionary consequences of ecological interactions...

Emmy-Noether-Group Community Dynamics (Becks)

Our research is motivated by an interest in understanding how communities respond to changes in genetic diversity, rapid evolution, changes in intrinsic and extrinsic parameters, and food web structure. We seek to link genetic and phenotypic variation to population dynamics, to understand the ecological consequences of evolutionary processes and the evolutionary consequences of ecological interactions... [more]
Parasites represent the most rapidly changing selection factor in natural populations of organisms. Therefore, host-parasites interactions are very suitable model systems for experimental research in evolutionary ecology.

Research Group Parasitology (Kalbe)

Parasites represent the most rapidly changing selection factor in natural populations of organisms. Therefore, host-parasites interactions are very suitable model systems for experimental research in evolutionary ecology. [more]
We are interested in the evolutionary forces and constraints that shape the functional diversity of the vertebrate immune system, from the sequence level to genomic organisation and protein structure. Our research is mainly based on computational analysis of immunogenetic data from humans and other natural populations, but includes also molecular and experimental approaches...

Emmy Noether Research Group Evolutionary Immunogenomics (Lenz)

We are interested in the evolutionary forces and constraints that shape the functional diversity of the vertebrate immune system, from the sequence level to genomic organisation and protein structure. Our research is mainly based on computational analysis of immunogenetic data from humans and other natural populations, but includes also molecular and experimental approaches... [more]
 
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