19.09.2018 | TOP NEWS, Evolution and Adaptation

Adapt or go extinct – Inaugural lecture by new iDiv group head

Renske Onstein spoke about how environmental conditions and traits interact to influence speciation and extinction (Photo: Volker Hahn, iDiv)

Renske Onstein spoke about how environmental conditions and traits interact to influence speciation and extinction (Photo: Volker Hahn, iDiv)

Jena. On Tuesday, the new iDiv junior group head Dr Renske Emilie Onstein gave her inaugural lecture in Jena. Onstein talked mostly about her own research, which focuses on how environmental conditions and plant traits interact to influence both plant speciation and extinction rates. Since June, Onstein is heading the new iDiv junior research group Evolution and Adaptation. After Onstein’s lecture, iDiv members met for the General Members Assembly (GMA).

Global change threatens biodiversity - especially in hotspots such as subtropical ecosystems and tropical rainforests. Can plants adapt to these changes or are they threatened with extinction? How has climate change influenced evolution in the past? In her inaugural lecture, Renske Onstein took the audience on a scientific journey to some of the world’s most biodiverse places – from mediterranean-type ecosystems to tropical rainforests. Onstein’s hypothesis: Evolution is triggered by the match between functional traits and environments - the right traits in the right place at the right time. If this match is disrupted, species are threatened with extinction. To test this hypothesis, Onstein combines genetic data, fossils and functional traits of plants. 

Onstein presented research results showing the effect of megafauna extinction on palm trees. Onstein found that old-world palms, which depend on large animals for the dispersal of their seeds, adapted to global change, whereas new-world palms, which also depend on large animal species, have gone increasingly extinct since the beginning of the Quaternary 2.6 million years ago.

By focusing on the evolutionary perspective, Onstein’s work feeds particularly well into iDiv’s mission of integrating space and time to understand broad-scale biodiversity patterns. Tilo Arnhold

Dr Renske Emilie Onstein 
Head of junior research group Evolution and Adaptation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
phone: +49 341 9733 -129
https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/core_groups/evolution_and_adaptation.html

Dr Volker Hahn
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig 
phone: +49 341 9733 -154
https://www.idiv.de/media

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