Laboratory of Molecular Ecology and Evolution
Our research is mainly focused on molecular analysis of the host-parasite co-evolution. It involves investigation of the population structure, genetic diversity, ecology and biogeography of the hosts and their parasites. On a deeper evolutionary scale we are also interested in the origin, evolution and relationships of parasitic and symbiotic organisms.
Current research projects
Coevolution between Galápagos mockingbirds and their ectoparasites
Galapagos mockingbirds comprise four species of recently radiated passerines endemic to the Galapagos archipelago. Co-analysing mitochondrial and nuclear markers of mockingbirds and their ectoparasites the most likely scenario of colonisation of particular islands within the archipelago was reconstructed. Link between population size, geographical range and parasite load is being analysed using high-throughput sequencing of MHC genes and neutral multilocus markers. Obtaining knowledge of MHC gene diversity is also of conservation interest, since several species of mockingbirds are threatened or even extinct in their original area of distribution (e.g. Floreana mockingbird).
Population genetics, demography and molecular evolution in rodents and their parasites
Adaptive and co-speciation components of host-parasite coevolution are studied in rodents and their parasites. Two rodent groups (voles and wood-mice) and their ectoparasites (lice, mites) as well as endoparasites (Eimeria) were selected as the model groups. Population structure was analysed using mitochondrial genes and selected nuclear markers. Despite observing lineages with relatively strict degree of host specificity, only limited amount of co-speciation was seen in both parasitic groups. Hence, the adaptive component of evolution seems to be the major driver defining genetic differentiation. Obtained patterns will be validated and explored in further detail using sequences of genes putatively under selection in the hosts (MHC II) and using multilocus and genomic data obtained from both counterparts.