Research Group Parasitology
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. In the parasitology group we are working with natural macroparasites (mainly parasitic helminths) of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in different waters around Ploen. Here we combine field studies, laboratory experiments and outdoor experiments. Since 2000 we are conducting a yearly parasite monitoring in order to track the dynamics of host-parasite coevolution over several generations in the field. Establishment of parasite life cycles in the lab enables us to study interactions of sticklebacks and their parasites in controlled lab experiments. We are particularly interested in immunological and immunogenetic adaptations of sticklebacks from different populations and habitat types (lakes, rivers, Baltic Sea) for the purpose of optimizing their resistance against an ever-changing parasite fauna. For investigations on how parasites in return adapt to the host’s immunesystem, we use the stickleback-specific tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus as a model.