Department Fish Ecology and Evolution

Fish Ecology & Evolution (FishEc)

We study ecology, evolution and biodiversity of fishes and other aquatic organisms. We are interested in the mechanisms that drive the origins, the maintenance and the loss of species, genetic and functional diversity.


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December 20, 2018
Genomic insights into the vulnerability of sympatric whitefish species flocks
This study provides a genome-scale (16,173 RAD loci) analysis of Alpine whitefish from lakes Walen and Zurich. Philine and Ole demonstrated the feasibility of dense marker sets to unambiguously distinguish sympatric whitefish species. This ability then allowed them to show that in each of the two lakes the population of a different, but ecologically similar, whitefish species declined following a recent period of eutrophication. They also detected genomic signatures consistent with hybridisation that are more pronounced in the more severely impacted lake, Lake Zurich. Finally, four genomic loci were identified that provide evidence of parallel divergent adaptation between the shallow benthic species and the two different more profundal species. The genomic analysis indicates the action of divergent natural selection between sympatric whitefish species in pre‐alpine lakes and reveals the vulnerability of these species to anthropogenic alterations of the environment.

original publication

December 20, 2018
A European Whitefish Linkage Map and Its Implications for Understanding Genome-Wide Synteny Between Salmonids Following Whole Genome Duplication
Rishi and Philine investigate the genetic basis of the spectacular whitefish radiation across Swiss lakes. To achieve that new genetic resources are essential. One such resource is the linkage map that they created and now published in G3. With this map, they identify how the structure of the whitefish genome might differ from that of other salmonid species by comparing it with the Atlantic Salmon genome. The linkage map suggests that whitefish and atlantic salmon have a very different genome structure an the whitefish genome is more similar to that of other salmonid species including rainbow trout. They further identified regions which have a unique structure in whitefish which they aim to investigate further in the future.

original publication

September 13, 2018
New species discovered in the Bernese Oberland
In Lakes Thun and Brienz, evolutionary biologists from Eawag and Bern University have discovered a new whitefish species. The species, provisionally named “Balchen2”, is clearly differentiated – morphologically, ecologically and genetically – from the five Lake Thun whitefish species previously described. The only lake known to harbour a higher number of whitefish species is the 200 times larger Russian Lake Onega. Read more

original publication

Research Projects

We investigate the mechanisms of speciation and adaptive radiation
Genome evolution and genomic divergence across the Swiss Alpine whitefish radiation
Investigating the interactions between migration ecology, local adaptation and diversification