Major Research Interests

Our main research focus is the identification of the evolutionary and developmental forces involved in morphological diversification among Arthropods. We are mainly interested in the evolution of head morphology in insects (Drosophila melanogaster, Tribolium castaneum) and chelicerates (spiders).
By applying a Micro-Evo-Devo approach we aim to unravel the molecular changes underlying natural variation in eye and head capsule morphology in closely related Drosophila species. By taking advantage of next generation sequencing technology (RNAseq) and the power of various well established genetic tools in Drosophila, we want to identify the developmental genes responsible for the observed variation in head morphology. Additionally, we are trying to establish the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum as model for morphological evolution by screening several populations for morphological differences.
In a more classical Evo-Devo approach we aim to identify the genes and developmental pathways involved in spider eye development. A broad comparison of these mechanisms among various groups of animals will reveal conserved and diverged aspects of this process.