Department Fish Ecology and Evolution

Evolutionary Biodiversity Dynamics

We study the ecological and genetic mechanisms by which life diversifies – diversification within a species, speciation and large species radiations. We also study adaptive radiations in a community ecology context and we wish to understand how adaptation, speciation and adaptive radiation affect species richness and ecosystem function. We also work on effects of environmental change on species assemblages built to variable extents through immigration and through speciation. Eventually we would like to know why different evolutionary lineages vary so enormously in their diversity and in their responses to environmental change across scales of space and time.

Why are there tens or hundreds of species of cichlids in many large lakes in Africa, and more than 30 species of whitefish in subalpine lakes, when there is only one species of most other fish groups in these same lakes? How do these large radiations affect the large lake ecosystems and what are the causes and the consequences of mass extinctions? What are the roles of immigration and speciation in the assembly of fish communities, and how did recent climate history and even more recent anthropogenic perturbations affect these mechanisms?

Our approach to these questions is interdisciplinary. We use tools from experimental and field ecology, behavioral sciences, phenotype analysis, population genomics, phylogenomics and bioinformatics. Our study systems are species radiations, such as the incredibly diverse cichlid fish in the great lakes of Africa, the whitefish and char in archipelagos of deep subalpine and sub-polar lakes, the species, life history forms and ecotypes of trout that used to dominate the alpine and subalpine river networks, and the diversity of ecotypes and incipient species of stickleback.

Finally, we work towards providing scientific foundations for biodiversity conservation and habitat restoration, and scientifically sound methodology for assessing and monitoring lake quality. 

Major themes

  • Speciation and Adaptive Radiation

  • Adaptation to Depth and Altitude

  • Community Ecology of Lake Fish

  • Conservation Biology




Last Name, First Name, Telephone, MailLocation
Alila, David
---, Send Mail
Doenz, Carmela
+41 58 765 2160, Send Mail
Feller, Anna
+41 58 765 3157, Send Mail
Dr. Hudson, Cameron
+41 58 765 2166, Send Mail
Dr. Jardim De Queiroz, Luiz
+41 58 765 2282, Send Mail
Dr. Mahulu, Anna
+41 58 765 2291, Send Mail
Dr. Marques, David Alexander
+41 58 765 6812, Send Mail
Dr. Muschick, Moritz
+41 58 765 2159, Send Mail
Ngoepe, Nare
+41 58 765 2221, Send Mail
Prof. Dr. Seehausen, Ole
+41 58 765 2121, Send Mail
Dr. Singh, Pooja
+41 31 684 30 57, Send Mail
Dr. Stieb, Sara
+41 58 765 2286, Send Mail
Dr. Ten Brink, Johanna
+41 58 765 2138, Send Mail
Dr. Villalba, Soraya
+41 58 765 2167, Send Mail

Major themes

We investigate the mechanisms of speciation and adaptive radiation
We investigate the ecological and genetic basis of adaptation to elevational variation in rivers and depth variation in lakes
We study causes of variation in diversity of fish assemblages and we wish to understand how variation in diversity affects the lake ecosystems
We work to combat what we consider the largest stumbling block on the way to successful biodiversity management and conservation in aquatic ecosystems: the lack of quantitative baseline data