Anja Guenther

Please refer to or contact Anja for further information on the project:
Co-Supervisor: Marketa Kaucka, contact:

Proximate mechanisms of phenotypic differentiation on high versus standard quality diet

Environmentally dependent phenotypic variation may play a critical role in several ecological and evolutionary phenomena, such as rapid adaptation to novel and changing environments. Characteristics of life history, behavioural and physiological traits are shaped through interactions with the environment, both, within and across generations. However, the effects of specific ecological conditions on the coevolution among these phenotypic traits and the mechanisms by which phenotypic adaptations are brought about remain largely elusive for diverse systems and non-model species. Especially the underlying proximate mechanisms generating phenotypic differences in behavior and physiology remain largely unspecified.

We use wild-derived house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) to understand how differences in food quality shape phenotypic differences in life history, morphology, physiology and behavior.

To understand the mechanisms that cause a shift in allocation from self-maintenance to reproduction in mice on high quality food combined with effects on risk-taking and stress-coping behavior, we combine methods from several biological disciplines. Life-history and behavioural observations will be combined with a battery of molecular and developmental biology methods to reveal their biological foundations. The successful applicant will perform μ-computed tomography and morphometric analysis to assess the impact of the food quality on the skull and brain morphology and bone density. The obtained results will be complemented by several staining techniques (multiplex FISH, immunohistochemistry, histology) to acquire a complex understanding of the underlying mechanisms on the level of cells and tissues. Subsequently, the successful candidate will complement the study by performing the metabolome analysis together with the investigation of differential gene expression in several tissues.

Candidates should have a genuine interest in understanding mechanisms driving animal behavior and be motivated to combine state-of-the art laboratory techniques with ecological and ethological questions.  

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