Laboratory of Molecular Ecology and Evolution
Current research projects
Population genomics of speciation and adaptation in parasites
We study genomic imprints of speciation and adaptation processes in two parasitic species, the tapeworm Ligula intestinalis and the bedbug Cimex lectularius. Despite differences in their ecology and evolution, both species show wide geographical range and many oportunities for emergence of specific adaptations (associated with host specificity in the tapeworm, or with insecticide resistance in the bedbug). Using SNP profiling, transcriptomis and WG sequencing we're evaluating the impact of geographic structuring and gene flow on adaptive processes in the two parasites (P.I.: J.Štefka).
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). (P.I.: J. Štefka)
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) were selected as the model groups. Population structure is being analysed using mitochondrial genes and SNP profiling. 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. Currently, a newly discovered secondary contact zone in the louse Polyplax serrata (but lacking a corresponding SCZ in its host) is being explored using WG sequencing (P.Is.: V. Hypša and J. Štefka).