Ageing & its life history consequences (Wordle)
A recent interest of our lab is in the evolution of rapid ageing and its consequences in annual killifish. These fish have an extraordinary life history - they survive annual desiccation of their habitats (pools in African and South American savannas) as diapaused embryos in dessication-resistant eggs. After their pool is again filled with water, the fish hatch and grow extremely rapidly, reaching sexual maturity in as few as 17 days. They do not compromise their rapid development with paedogenesis and have typical adult phenotypes.
We are particularly interested in three Nothobranchius species complexes in Mozambique where they co-occur across a strong gradient in aridity, with populations of each three species living in habitats lasting 2-11 months. We combine field and experimental studies to understand their ecology, genetic structure, and developmental trade-offs. We have also started to work on Neotropical annual killifish, where the same life history has evolved independently.
Sexual selection & mate choice (Wordle)
We have a long-term interest in understanding the causes and consequences of mate choice. Our research focuses particularly on alternative mating behaviour, sperm competition & sneaking behaviour, cues used by females in mate choice, population consequences of mate skew, and the effect of resource distribution on the success of territorial males.
While most research is done using two species of bitterling (Rhodeus amarus, R. ocellatus), recent work included African killifish (Nothobranchius spp.) and Endler’s guppies (Poecilia wingei).
Coevolutionary dynamics in a host-parasite relationship (Wordle)
Bitterling fish are small cyprinids with an obligatory association with freshwater mussels. Bitterling lay their eggs in the gills of mussels and, in turn, mussels require a fish host for their parasitic larvae to complete their life cycle. As hosting fish embryos and mussel larvae is costly, both partners have evolved counter-adaptations to the exploitation by their partner, resulting in fine-tuned arms race.
Currently, we study the effect of an invasive Asian mussel (Anodonta woodiana) on populations of European bitterling (R. amarus). We have shown a fascinating variability in the effect of A. woodiana on European bitterling populations across Europe, with great differences in the impact on population dynamic depending on the source population of the invasive mussel. We continue to investigate the outcome of this reciprocal relationship in the Asian part of the bitterling range (with over 20 bitterling species in our study area in China), where the relationship ranges from mutualism to one-sided parasitism.