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.
Ecology and Evolution - Rapid generation of ecologically relevant behavioral novelty
Interspecific hybrids can have transgressive phenotypes that may allow them to explore novel ecological niches. Using a combination of behavioral assays, morphometric analyses, and genetic mapping, we demonstrate transgressive segregation in morphology and in a novel trophic behavior in F2 hybrids between two generalist cichlid species from Lake Malawi. Such rapid generation of novel ecologically relevant phenotypes might contribute to the rapid generation of ecological diversity in cichlid fish adaptive radiations.