Research in our Department deals with the evolution, phylogeny, and taxonomy of angiosperms.
Evolution, phylogeny and taxonomy of flowering plants (Prof. E. Hörandl):
Flowering plants harbor the greatest species diversity of all land plants. The evolutionary processes that have led to their diversity and the global distribution are manifold: polyploidy, hybridization, a broad range of reproductive strategies, and adaptive radiations are key factors for the success of flowering plants. The combination of DNA markers, karyological, morphological and reproductive data helps to understand speciation, dispersal and evolutionary history of flowering plants.
We focus on the evolution of temperate angiosperms and elucidate the role of hybridization and modes of reproductive systems for diversification processes via population genetic studies, ploidy screenings and studies of breeding systems. Apomixis, the asexual reproduction via seed, is a frequent trait in temperate, arctic and high alpine species complexes, and probably a widespread reproductive strategy in tropical trees. Understanding the frequencies, the genetic basis and the biogeographical success of apomictic plants will elucidate the evolution of flowering plants and help to understand basic evolutionary questions like the "paradox of sex".
Developmental biology, karyology and evolution of grasses (Dr. Diego Hojsgaard, Piyal Karunarathne): Analysis of the nature of cytotype and genotype diversity in connection with geographic distribution, reproductive syndromes and ploidy levels in South American natural populations of Paspalum species.
Environmental effects on apomixis (Dr. Simone Klatt, Christoph Schinkel): Ecological niches and environmental stress of apomictic plants are being studied in the field and with climate chamber experiments.
Apomixis in Tropical Plants (Nicole Opfermann, Ladislav Hodac): The mode of reproduction, ploidy and genetic diversity of common weedy and invasive plants will shed light on their impact on tropical rainforest transformation systems (Poaceae, Melastomataceae) (CRC 990, B12).
Hybrid evolution in Salix (Susanne Gramlich): here we study hybridization processes and population structure of alpine willows on glacier forefields in the context of climate change.
Rutaceae Phylogeny, Biogeography and Taxonomy (Dr. Marc Appelhans): Phylogenetic analysis using DNA sequence analysis, next generation sequencing and morphological data aims at a reconstruction of diversification processes in space and time. Current phylogenetic projects on the cosmopolitan families Ranunculaceae and Rutaceae will provide the background for a revised, evolutionary classification.
Evolution of the Ranunculus auricomus complex (Ladislav Hodac): Hybrid origin and diversification of this polyploid complex is being studied by using molecular markers and geometric morphometrics on herbarium specimens and with experimental crosses.