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Evolutionary ecology group (EVECO)
Main organisation:Department of Biology
Lifecycle:1 Oct 2003 → Today
Organisation profile:The Evolutionary Biology Group has two main lines of research:A) Evolutionary processes that affect biodiversity. The evolutionary relationships between different taxonomic units are studied through the analysis of morphological and molecular variation. Together with data on geographic distributions in time and space, hypotheses about diversification (speciation) and their implications for conservation and biodiversity are formulated. The historical, phylogenetic framework is supplemented with population genetic approaches and behavioural and ecological data. In addition, we explore the field of quantitative genetics in morphological and life-history characters. Current research interests are:- Population genetic, phylogenetic and phylogeographic research on hermaphroditic terrestrial gastropods.- The effects of stress on the evolutionary potential of morphological development and fitness (using fluctuating asymmetry as a measure of developmental instability).- Studies of natural and sexual selection in insects.- Phylogeny and phylogeography of African small mammals.B) Population and disease ecology. Fluctuations in population size of small mammals are studied in temperate and tropical (mainly African) habitats, with a focus on the effects of weather, predator-prey relations and the importance of dispersal. The obtained information is used to develop population models which can be used to investigate, predict or simulate population changes. Based on the knowledge gathered about rodents that are important as crop destroyers or disease carriers, such models and other information is used to develop ecologically-based rodent management strategies. A growing field of interest is the ecology of rodent-borne diseases (e.g. hantavirus, plague), with a focus on the temporal and spatial patchyness of diseases.
Keywords:SPECIATION, EVOLUTIONARY ECOLOGY, PHYLOGENY, POPULATION BIOLOGY, INSECTA, RODENTS, DISEASE ECOLOGY