Fishes are the most diverse group of vertebrates, are key players in aquatic ecosystems, provide a diverse set of ecosystem services, and are sensitive to environmental change. We study their ecology, evolution and conservation. We work with fish diversity from traits and genes in populations to the diversity of species assemblages, their change through time and the ecosystem consequences. We are particularly interested in understanding the evolution of endemic diversity within individual ecosystems, such as the radiations of cichlid fish in African lakes and the radiation of whitefish in the lakes around the European Alps. We are a single research group led by Ole Seehausen at the University of Bern but Ole also leads the Department Fish Ecology and Evolution at the Eawag Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry, Kastanienbaum, where we currently host four other research groups that are all associated with the IEE too. The work of the Eawag department is motivated by the aim to contribute to the emerging synthesis between evolutionary biology and ecosystems ecology. There we also host the Swiss Fisheries Advisory Service. Researchers in the department of vertebrates at the Natural History Museum Bern, NMBE, are also affiliated with our University division.
TREE - A Combinatorial View on Speciation and Adaptive Radiation
Speciation is often thought of as a slow process due to the waiting times for mutations that cause incompatibilities, and permit ecological differentiation or assortative mating. Cases of rapid speciation and particularly cases of rapid adaptive radiation into multiple sympatric species have remained somewhat mysterious. We review recent findings from speciation genomics that reveal an emerging commonality among such cases: reassembly of old genetic variation into new combinations facilitating rapid speciation and adaptive radiation. The polymorphisms in old variants frequently originated from hybridization at some point in the past. We discuss why old variants are particularly good fuel for rapid speciation, and hypothesize that variation in access to such old variants might contribute to the large variation in speciation rates observed in nature.