Research Area “Molecular Biodiversity and Adaptation”

This research area aims to identify molecular and chemical mechanisms underlying organismal diversity, interaction networks and (co-)evolutionary processes that lead to local adaptation, population differentiation and speciation. This includes the functioning of complex organismal communities, such as micro- and holobiomes.

Research questions

Which chemicals drive organismal interactions and adaptation to environmental change?

Chemicals are important for communication between plants, microbes and animals. Tapping into this chemical communication is essential to understand how biodiversity emerges and is maintained.
Computer-assisted approaches for metabolite identification reveal novel chemical cues in intraspecific communication and multitrophic networks (Complexity, Functions). Novel plant metabolites may be used for sustainable resistance in agro-ecosystems (Society).

What are the molecular mech­a­nisms underlying functional links in highly diverse micro­biomes and their hosts?

Microbial communities are important drivers of ecosystem functioning as well as the performance of macro-organ­isms. 
Molecular tools help to identi­fy micro­bial communi­ties, their inter­actions and their functions (Complexity, Functions). iDiv reserachers will inte­grate ecological concepts and holo­biome data with information on human micro­biomes to better under­stand how complex micro­biomes can be maintained under environmental change (Society).

How does environmental change impact the evolutionary processes underpinning local adaptation, population structure and speciation?

Organisms adapt to environmental change, which leads to population-genetic divergence and speciation.
Genomic analyses reveal the evolutionary consequences of global change on local adaptation, speciation and population differentiation (Complexity). Local adaptation and eco-evolutionary processes influence how populations respond to global change (Change).

Key publications

Cooper, R. E., ..., and Küsel, K. (2020). Iron Is Not Everything: Unexpected Complex Metabolic Responses between Iron-Cycling Microorganisms. The ISME Journal 14, DOI: 10.1038/s41396-020-0718-z

Holzmeyer, L., ..., Muellner-Riehl, A. N., ..., and Schnitzler, J. (2020). Evaluation of Plant Sources for Antiinfective Lead Compound Discovery by Correlating Phylogenetic, Spatial, and Bioactivity Data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1915277117

Prada‐Salcedo, L. D., ..., Heintz‐Buschart, A., Reitz, T., ..., and Buscot, F. (2020). Fungal guilds and soil functionality respond to tree community traits rather than to tree diversity in European forests. Molecular Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/mec.15749

Tehel, A., …, and Paxton, R.J. (2020). Experimental Infection of Bumblebees with Honeybee-Associated Viruses: No Direct Fitness Costs but Potential Future Threats to Novel Wild Bee Hosts. Royal Society Open Science 7, DOI: 10.1098/rsos.200480

Volf, M., Weinhold, A., …, Uthe, H., ...., Richter, R., …, Wirth, C. and van Dam, N. M. (2020). Branch-localized induction promotes efficacy of volatile defences and herbivore predation in trees. Journal of Chemical Ecology, DOI: 10.1007/s10886-020-01232-z

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