Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Phylogenomics of adaptive radiation of subterranean crustaceans

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.03.01  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biology  Zoology and zoophysiology 

Code Science Field
1.06  Natural Sciences  Biological sciences 
adaptive radiation, amphipoda, ecology, evolution, groundwater, caves, subterranean
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (7)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  50532  PhD Špela Borko  Biology  Technical associate  2022 - 2023  77 
2.  35367  PhD Teo Delić  Biology  Researcher  2020 - 2023  130 
3.  18913  PhD Cene Fišer  Biology  Head  2020 - 2023  274 
4.  55612  Luka Močivnik  Biology  Researcher  2021 - 2023 
5.  14835  PhD Peter Trontelj  Biology  Researcher  2020 - 2023  424 
6.  23478  PhD Maja Zagmajster  Biology  Researcher  2020 - 2023  343 
7.  25832  PhD Valerija Zakšek  Biology  Researcher  2020 - 2023  136 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  66,333 
Scientific background. Adaptive radiation (AR) is among the most spectacular and the most complex models explaining the origin of biodiversity. In a broad sense, AR stands for a rapid monophyletic species proliferation accompanied by ecological diversification. The idea integrates eco-evolutionary dynamics across different spatio-temporal scales and captures all issues at the forefront of ecology and evolution. We framed herein presented program with three directions of contemporary AR research. First, how common and general ARs are? Simpson suggested that most of life derived from AR, yet the evidence for this claim is controversial. Second, in what circumstances AR emerge? Theoretically, AR is an outcome of an interaction between intrinsic factors (species’ capacity to evolve), and extrinsic factors (unexploited ecological resources). Arguably, interspecific competition drives species’ divergence. Third, how predictable is the course of AR? The development of ecological disparity may be nonrandom, with respect to habitat use, trophic specializations and development of sexual dimorphism. ARs have been mostly studied in spatially and temporally explicit areas such as islands or lakes; continental studies are rare. No study of AR was made in extreme environments. In the proposed program we are filling this gap, and test for AR in subterranean environment on a continental scale using amphipod Niphargus as a model. It has been thought that the subterranean realm does not provide sufficient ecological opportunity to start AR, and subterranean fauna was long considered as evolutionary dead-end. Recent studies indicate the opposite. We propose that specialization to the subterranean environment had actually led to key innovations, which unlocked the door to “subterranean ecological opportunity”. The past decade of eco-evolutionary research unveiled that Niphargus comprises three elements defining AR: monophyly, massive speciation and ecological disparity, making it an excellent candidate for testing model of AR. Aims and questions. We will expand speleobiological theories with the general theory of AR in order to provide a mechanistic explanation for continent-wide diversification of Niphargus, and at the same time rigorously test the generality of AR hypotheses using a model system from an extreme environment. Importantly, we aim to develop a fully resolved genus-wide phylogeny using phylogenomic data. We will ask four specific questions: 1) Can the model AR explain the origin and diversification of subterranean organisms? Identifying AR in extreme environment would increase the evidence for its ubiquitous nature. 2) Which mechanisms underlay AR? We will explore how intrinsic (hybridization) and extrinsic (ecological) factors predict the onset of AR. 3) Does ecological disparity relaxes competitive interactions, and hence allows AR to unfold? 4) Do ARs unfold in stages? We predict that species ecological differentiation proceeded in two steps: microhabitat divergence, followed by trophic divergence. Data, methods and research team. We will calculate phylogenomic hypothesis, and employ phylogenetic comparative methods, ecological modelling and simulations. The research team comprises five experienced and established researchers, complementary expertise in phylogenetic analyses, macroecological modelling and trait evolution analyses. We will collaborate also internationally, with leading ecologists and researchers of AR. Predicted results and the relevance of the study. The study will enrich our understanding of AR, and elucidate the eco-evolutionary dynamics in subterranean environment. We expect that the results and methodological approaches apply to other extreme ecosystems (e.g. deep sea). The available data will promote further research of groundwater, like analyses of phylogenetic and functional diversity, species endangerment, development of barcoding systems and development of monitoring of the most endangered species.
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