Project groups


Project leader:
Prof. Dr. Markus Pfenninger

Related species, as well as different populations within a species, are adapted to their specific environmental conditions and occupy different climatic niches. Proximately this can be attributed to phenotypic characteristics such as temperature tolerance, oxygen deficiency tolerance or phenology. Ultimately, these ecological differences are the consequence of evolutionary changes of the genome. However, little is known about the ecologically relevant genomic basis of climatic niche differentiation and the evolution thereof.
As study organisms we use the midge Chironomus riparius, the tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, and the pondsnail Radix balthica.
Through a combination of population genetics, common garden experiments, determination of physiological differences and gene expression patterns it is possible to make predictions about the proportion of phenotypic plasticity and/or evolutionary differences on regulatory or protein level, respectively. The aim is to identify genes and/or their regulation patterns, which are the bases to climate adaptation of a certain species.


Dr. Barbara Feldmeyer, Researcher
Dr. Hanno Schmidt, Researcher
Quentin Foucault, Ph.D. student
Juliane Hartke, Ph.D. student
Ann-Marie Oppold, Ph.D. student
Pedro Romero, Ph.D. student
Tilman Schell, Ph.D. student


Feldmeyer B., Hoffmeier, K. & M. Pfenninger (2010) : The complete mitochondrial genome of Radix balthica (Pulmonata, Basommatophora), obtained by low coverage shot gun next generation sequencing. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57: 1329-1333.

Feldmeyer B., Mazur J., Beros S., Lerp H., Binder H., & S. Foitzik (2016) : Gene expression patterns underlying parasite-induced alterations in host behaviour and life history. - Molecular Ecology

Feldmeyer, B., Greshake, B., Funke, E., Ebersberger, I. & M. Pfenninger (2015) : Positive selection in development and growth rate regulation genes involved in species divergence of the genus Radix.- BMC Evolutionary Biology

Feldmeyer, B., Wheat, C., Krezdorn, N., Rotter, B. & M. Pfenninger (2011) : Short read Illumina data for the de novo assembly of a non-model snail species transcriptome (Radix balthica, Basommatophora, Pulmonata), and a comparison of assembler performance. - BMC Genomics 12:317.

Haun, T., Salinger, M., Pachzelt, A. & M. Pfenninger (2012) : On the processes shaping small-scale population structure in Radix balthica (Linnaeus 1758). - Malacologia 55(2): 219-233.

Kersken, D., Feldmeyer, B. & D. Janussen (2016) : Sponge communities of the Antarctic Peninsula: influence of environmental variables on species composition and richness. Polar Biology

Lerp, H., Klaus, S., Allgöwer, S., Wronski ,T., Pfenninger, M. & M. Plath (2016) : Phylogenetic analyses of gazelles reveal repeated transitions of key ecological traits and provide novel insights into the origin of the genus Gazella. - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution

Lerp, H., Wronski, T., Pfenninger, M. & M. Plath (2011) : A phylogeographic framework for the conservation of Saharan and Arabian dorcas gazelles (Artiodactyla: Bovidae). - Organisms, Diversity and Evolution 11, 317-329.

Lerp, H., Wronski, T., Plath, M., Schröter, A. & M. Pfenninger (2013) : Phylogenetic and population genetic analyses suggest a potential species boundary between Mountain (Gazella gazella) and Arabian Gazelles (G. arabica) in the Levant. - Mammalian Biology 78: 383-386. 

Merker, S., Boucsein, D., Feldmeyer, B., Perwitasari-Farajallah, D. & B. Streit (2012) : Novel tetra- and pentanucleotide microsatellite markers allow for multiplexed genotyping of Sulawesi tarsiers (Tarsius spp.). - Conservation Genetics Resources 4: 343-345.

Müller, R., Charaf, S., Scherer, C., Oppold, A., Oehlmann, J. & M. Wagner (2016) : Phenotypic and epigenetic effects of vinclozolin in the gastropod Physella acuta (accepted). - Journal of Molluscan Studies

Nemec, S., Patel, S., Nowak, C. & M. Pfenninger (2013) : Evolutionary determinants of population differences in population growth rate x habitat temperature interactions in Chironomus riparius. - Oecologia 172: 585-594.

Nemec, S., Heß, M., Nowak, C. & M. Pfenninger (2012) : Experimental evidence for niche segregation in a species pair of non-biting midges. - Hydrobiologia 691: 203-212.

Oppold, A., Kreß, A., Vanden Bussche, J., Diogo ,J.B., Kuch, U., Oehlmann, J., Vandegehuchte, M.B. & R. Müller (2015) : Epigenetic alterations and decreasing insecticide sensitivity of the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus. -Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 122, 45-53

Oppold, A., Kreß, A., Vanden Bussche, J., Diogo, J.B., Kuch, U., Oehlmann, J., Vandegehuchte, M.B. & R. Müller (2015) : Epigenetic alterations and decreasing insecticide sensitivity of the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus. -   Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 122, p 45-53

Oppold, A.-M., Pedrosa, J.A.M., Balint, M., Diogo, J. B., Ilkova, J., Pestana, J.L.T. & M. Pfenninger (2016) : Support for the evolutionary Speed hypothesis from intraspecific Population genetic data in the non-biting midge Chironomus riparius. - Proceedings of the Royal Society B 

Patel, S., Schell, T., Eifert, C., Feldmeyer, B. & M. Pfenninger (2015) : Characterizing a hybrid zone between a cryptic species pair of freshwater snails. - Molecular Ecology, 24: 643–655

Pen, I., Uller, T., Feldmeyer, B., Harts, A., While, G. M. & E. Wapstra (2010) : Climate-driven population divergence in sex-determining systems. - Nature 468: 436-438.

Pfenninger, M., Bálint, M., & S.U. Pauls (2012) : Methodological framework for projecting the potential loss of intraspecific genetic diversity due to global climate change. - BMC Evolutionary Biology 12: 224.

Pfenninger, M., Weigand A., Balint, M., Klussmann-Kolb A. (2014) : Misperceived invasion: The Lusitanian slug (Arion lusitanicus auct. non-Mabille or Arion vulgaris Moquin-Tandon 1855) is native to Central Europe. - Evolutionary Applications, 7: 702-713

Pfenninger, M., & M. Plath (2016) : Ist Evolution vorhersagbar? - Biologie in unserer Zeit

Pfenninger, M., Lerp, H., Tobler, M., Passow, C., Kelley, J. L., Funke, E., Greshake, B., Erkoc, U. K., Berberich, T. & M. Plath (2014) : Parallel evolution of cox genes in H2S-tolerant fish as key adaptation to a toxic Environment. - Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4873

Pfenninger, M., Salinger, M., Haun, T. & B. Feldmeyer (2011) : Factors and processes shaping the population structure and distribution of genetic variation across the species range of the freshwater snail radix balthica (Pulmonata, Basommatophora). - BMC Evolutionary Biology 11:135.

Pfenninger, M., Vela, E., Jesse, R., Arantzazu Elejalde, M., Liberto, F., Magnin, F. & A. Martinez-Ortia (2010) : Temporal speciation pattern in the western Mediterranean genus / Tudorella/ P. Fischer, 1885 (Gastropoda, Pomatiidae) supports the Tyrrhenian vicariance hypothesis. - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54 (2010) 427–436.

Plath, M., Pfenninger, M., Lerp, H., Riesch, R., Eschenbrenner, C., Slattery, P.A., Bierbach, D., Herrmann, N., Schulte, M., Arias-Rodriguez, L., Rimber Indy, J., Passow, C. & M. Tobler (2013) : Genetic differentiation and selection against migrants in evolutionarily replicated extreme environments. - Evolution. Doi:10.1111/evo.12133.

Romero, P., Pfenninger, M., Kano, Y. & A. Klussmann-Kolb (2016) : Molecular phylogeny of the Ellobiidae (Gastropoda: Panpulmonata) supports independent terrestrial invasions. - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 97: 43-54.

Salinger, M. & M. Pfenninger (2009) : Highly polymorphic microsatellite markers for Radix balthica (Linnaeus 1758). - Molecular Ecology Ressources 9, 1152-1155.

Schmidt, H., Greshake, B., Feldmeyer, B., Hankeln, T. & M. Pfenninger (2013) : Genomic basis of ecological niche divergence among cryptic sister species of non-biting midges. - BMC Genomics 14: 384.

Schmidt, H., Hangmann, J., Shams, I., Avivi, A. & T. Hankeln (2015) : Molecular evolution of antioxidant and hypoxia response in long-lived, cancer-resistant blind mole rats: The Nrf2‐Keap1 pathway. - Gene

Sielaff, M., Schmidt, H., Struck, T.H., Rosenkranz, D., Welch, DBM., Hankeln, T. & H. Herlyn (accepted) : Phylogeny of Syndermata (syn. Rotifera): Mitochondrial gene order verifies epizoic Seisonidea as sister to endoparasitic Acanthocephala (thorny-headed worms) within monophyletic Hemirotifera. - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution

Tills, O., Rundle, S.D., Salinger, M., Haun, T., Pfenninger, M. & J.I. Spicer (2011) : A genetic basis for intra-specific differences in developmental timing? - Evolution and Development 13(6): 542-548.

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