Littorina Research Site
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I am an evolutionary biologist studying processes generating biological diversity – adaptation and speciation – and particularly their genomic basis and spatial patterns. For that, I combine field surveys, morphological and behavioural phenotyping, analyses of various genomic data sets, and computer simulations. I use the marine snail Littorina saxatilis as a model system. L. saxatilis occurs on rocky shores and has evolved two distinct ecotypes, adapted to wave-exposed vs. high-predation habitats, that coexist on the same shores and form hybrid zones.
Because hybrid zones between ecotypes occur in multiple geographical locations across Europe, this system is ideal to study parallel evolution – a process where the same trait evolves repeatedly in the same direction in independent populations. Studying parallel evolution is important as it allows for insights into the predictability and repeatability of evolution.
My project at IST Austria aims at understanding parallel evolution in great detail. In particular, I am interested in the origin of genomic variation that makes parallel evolution possible – does it emerge from new mutation, gene flow, or variation that has long been segregating within populations? To answer this question, I will combine mathematical and simulation approaches with empirical genomic data.