Department of Evolutionary Genetics

Evolutionary epi-/genetic research for species conservation by bridging genotype and phenotype

The Department of Evolutionary Genetics studies mammalian evolutionary diversity. We aim to understand how past conditions have shaped current mammalian diversity and how it will change in the future. Here, we focus on four facets of mammalian diversity: adaptive genetic variation, neutral genetic variation, epigenetic variation and life-history variation. Besides establishment and application of modern molecular methods to pursue these aims we also develop open source software, curate two large reference sample collections and administrate jointly with five regional partners the Berlin Center for Genomics in Biodiversity Research (BeGenDiv, Member of the European Sequencing Initiative ERGA).
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Selected projects of the department

Comparative environmental epigenomics in wildlife

Epigenetic changes function as flexible mechanisms to increase a species' adaptability to environmental changes, but past studies have focused mostly on maternal effects. Here we study parental transmitted epigenetic responses and ask also if different environmental changes invoke different or similar responses.

The genomic basis of convergent evolution in modern sloths

The sloth lifestyle of hanging from trees has actually evolved independently two times. The convergent anatomical and physiological changes have an unknown genetics basis. We are triying to understand this by comparing high-quality whole genome sequences from living sloths.

Novel computational methods in wildlife research

Many of our research projects require new computational methods for processing and evaluating the data obtained. We develop these analysis tools either ourselves or in cooperation with partners, and also make them available to third parties.

Genetic monitoring of threatened European carnivores

By developing SNP marker systems to genetically monitor European carnivores, we provide tools to understand how these elusive species co-exist with humans and recolonize densely populated areas with intensive land-use. In this network project, research at the IZW focused on the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and the Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos).