Institute of Evolution and Ecology (EvE)

Institute of Evolution and Ecology (EvE)


EVE research groups

BSc Biology

EVE undergrad courses

MSc program

Evolution and Ecology

PhD program

EVEREST grad school

Welcome to EvE!

Research and teaching in EvE focus on how individuals, populations and communities interact and cope with environmental variability. We synergistically address a wide variety of perspectives and methodologies in evolutionary ecology, including plant and animal ecology, integrative botany and zoology, ecotoxicology, and conservation.

EvE news

Publication: Active sensing with light

22.01.2020 ► Small fish such as triplefins reflect sunlight sideways with their iris. Matteo Santon et al. now experimentally tested (Proc. B.) whether this mechanism can help to uncover cryptic predators. Treated triplefins approached well-camouflaged scorpionfish closer than controls. Visual models confirmed that detection distances are well within the naturally relevant range for these species. The study suggests active sensing to be widespread among small fishes.

Publication: Book on biomimetics

17.01.2020 ► The lectures of the 60th Phylogenetic Symposium held in Tübingen in 2018 have now been published in a new biomimetics book together with several additional contributions of the field. The book especially focusses on how biomimetic research integrates with phylogenetics, functional morphology, and biomechanics.

Publication: Snails in hot and dry conditions

25.11.2019 ► Adaptation of land snails to heat involves thermodynamic, biochemical, cellular, physiological, behavioural, morphological, ecological and evolutionary processes. Yet, previous work usually considers different levels of biological organization in isolation. New work by Mona Schweizer et al. now assembles extensive literature information into a web of network parameters (Ecol. Evol.). The authors show the need for multicausal thinking to adequately reflect the complexity of these relationships.

Publication: Improved wastewater treatment techniques

17.11.2019 ► Treated wastewater is a major source for the release of micropollutants and bacteria into surface waters. Rita Triebskorn et al. (Env. Sci. Europe) now provide evidence for the prompt benefits of WWTP upgrades that employ, for example, powdered activated carbon. They conclude that further investment into this technique has great potential to enhance river ecosystem health, and thus ultimately drinking water quality.

Commission Member: Expert Panel on Trace Substances

23.10.2019 ► Rita Triebskorn (Animal Physiological Ecology group) has been appointed member of the Independent Expert Panel for the Assessment of the Relevance of Environmental Trace Substances by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. She is the only representative from academia among the 15 members of this panel.

Conference: Etho2020 registration open

08.10.2019 ► Registration and abstract submission are now open for the 15th annual Meeting of the Ethological Society, held in Tübingen 18-21 February 2020. The meeting is jointly hosted by local researchers working in Zoology, Neuroethology, and Hominin evolution. Keynote speakers include Zanna Clay, Iain Couzin, Judith Korb and Ana Silva. Early bird registration closes 15 Jan 2020, abstract submission on 30 Nov 2019.

Job offers: PhD positions at the EVE institute

01.10.2019 ► Several new PhD positions are available within the EVE institute:

The Plant Evolutionary Ecology group and the Comparative Zoology group invite applications for two PhD positions in Evolutionary Ecology and Ecological Genomics.

The Animal Evolutionary Ecology group advertises two PhD positions in marine visual ecology of predator-prey interactions.

Publication: Genomics of plant adaptation to climate change

18.09.2019 ► Climate change can make plants evolve rapidly. A new study published in Nature, led by Moises Exposito-Alonso from the MPI for Developmental Biology and coauthored by Oliver Bossdorf (Plant Evolutionary Ecology), found that experimental climate change exerts strong natural selection on Arabidopsis thaliana, and that future climate change will likely result in substantial losses of genetic diversity in Europe.

Publication: EU greening policy and habitat use by farmland birds

10.09.2019 ► European agricultural policy (CAP) aims at supporting farmland biodiversity, but the efficiency of current 'greening' measures remains poorly studied. EVE-researchers (Vogelwarte) now investigated how farmland birds use agri-environmental options during autumn and winter as key periods for annual survival, finding current 'greening' measures to be of limited attractivity. They suggest improvements for the upcoming CAP period.

Publication: Fungi communities along an altitudinal gradient

09.09.2019 ► Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are the most prominent plant mycobionts in the tropics, yet little is known about their diversity, species composition and factors driving AMF distribution patterns. Along an altitudinal gradient (1000-4000 m asl) in Ecuador, Ingeborg Haug et al. (PLoS One) found AMF communities to be dominated by Glomeraceae at lower altitudes but by Acaulosporaceae at higher altitudes. Further experimental studies should unravel the factors that determine the composition of the AMF communities.

Celebration: Summer event of the Biology department

29.07.2019 ► The EvE Institute hosted this year's summer party of the Biology department. During the official part of the event, the Biology assembly elected Oliver Bossdorf (Plant Evolutionary Ecology group) new speaker of Biology for the coming 2 years. Ingeborg Haug (Plant Evolutionary Ecology group) has been awarded the prize for best teaching in undergraduate Biology. Finally, three PhD students from within EvE - Mona Schweizer, Simon Schwarz (both Animal Physiological Ecology group) and Matteo Santon (Animal Evolutionary Ecology group) - received prizes of the Reinhold-and-Maria-Teufel-Stiftung for their excellent dissertations. Congratulations to everyone!

The official part was followed by a public party in the Botanical gardens, where about 100 students and staff from all Biology enjoyed a hot afternoon with cool drinks and chilled musing in a relaxed atmosphere.

Opening: 'Grüne Werkstatt"

29.07.2019 ► The Botanical Gardens have now officially opened the new building of the 'Grüne Werkstatt'. This iniative develops educational programmes to schools and other groups. It offers a broad range of botanical and ecological themed tours to provide hands-on experience with ecology in a very accessible and broad-reaching way. The new building will greatly facilitate this mission, and enhance the capacity for the dissemination of ecological knowledgt.

Defence: Anubhav Mohiley

29 Jul 2019 ► EVEREST PhD student Anubhav Mohiley (Plant Ecology group) has successfully defended his PhD project. Anu investigated how plants can adapt to soil contaminations with heavy metals, and ultimately even take advantage of their accumulation in plant tissue to benefit during interspecific competition. Congratulations!

Publication: How glyphosate and its associated acidity affect early development in zebrafish

24.07.2019 ► The issue of the effects of glyphosate on non-target organisms is highly debated. The Animal Physiological Ecology group in collaboration with the Organismic Interactions group investigated the toxicity of glyphosate on Danio rerio embryos taking into account its intrinsic acidity. The study (PeerJ 7: e7094) showed that the acute toxicity was mainly attributed to acidity, but on a sublethal level glyphosate at pH 7 induced considerable effects. In parallel, a potential prospective alternative to glyphosate, 7dSh, was tested without any adverse effects.

Publication: Novel type of pigment shield in miniaturized insect eye

17.07.2019 ► Tobias Mohr et al. from the Evolutionary Biology of Invertebrates group used 3D reconstructions of serial-section transmission electron microscopy (ssTEM) to reveal that the sub-retinal pigment shield of Trichogramma evanescens is formed by extensions of the lateral rim pigment cells (J. Comp. Neurol.). The study reveals the first known case where lateral rim cells participate in a sub-retinal pigment shield in an insect eye. As neither pigmented extensions of secondary pigment cells, nor pigment granules in the extensions of the cone cell projections are present above the basal matrix in T.evanescens, the sub-retinal extensions of the lateral rim cells can be seen as a functional adaptation to miniaturization to maintain a proximal shielding function.

Dr. Merav Seifan Ambassador for the University Tübingen

03.07.2019 ► Dr. Merav Seifan, alumni researcher of the Plant Ecology group, has now been appointed Ambassador of the Tübingen University (attempto online). The University Ambassador title is awarded to research alumni whose connections to their alma mater are of outstanding quality and eminence. The ambassador network is part of Tübingen’s international research alumni relations within the framework of the University’s internationalization strategy.

UN Decade of Biodiversity: Project "Bunte Wiese"

03.07.2019 ► The initiative "Colourful Meadow" (Bunte Wiese) has again been acknowledged as a project within the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity by the jury of the German national committee of the UN Decade. Congratulations!


Teaching: New flyer on the EVE Master-program

24.06.2019 ► The Evolution and Ecology Institute developed a new flyer informing interested students about the structure and content of the Evolution and Ecology (EVE) Master program. Please download and share ...


Festivity: 50th anniversary Federsee field station

19.06.2019 ► On May 30 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Federsee research station. Past and current users got together with long-term neighbors and those who founded and further developed the station. In a festive and informal event many stories were exchanged, old ties got reinforced, and new connections made. We hope that the station will continue to inspire generations to come!.


Publicity: Smart plants on TV

07.06.2019 ► Katja Tielbörger and the Plant Ecology group have been featured in two different TV documentaries. On June 15 at 7pm, the ‘smart plant’ project has been broadcasted in ‘Gut zu Wissen’ of the Bavarian Television. Additionally, the SWR has shown a contribution about plant intelligence in the documentary series ‘Odysso’ on June 27 at 10pm. Finally, Quarks broadcasted an interview, starting at around 21 min 45 '.


Publication: Specificity of Bti biotoxins protects amphibians

07.06.2019 ► Current global declines of amphibian populations call for alternatives to conventional pest control. Scientists from the Animal Physiological Ecology group now tested a common Bti formulation at up to 100-fold field concentrations for its impact on European common frog larvae. The study (Ecotox. Environm. Safety) did not find any indication contradicting its safety for amphibians.


Documentary: Microplastics in the environment

27.03.2019 ► The risk of environmental microplastics is a matter of intense public debate. In a recent 3sat documentary, Rita Triebskorn and colleagues from the Animal Physiological Ecology Group and from Heidelberg University presented current research on this subject and clarified common misconceptions about the potential toxicity of microplastics.


Funding: Ecomorphology of rove beetles

26.03.2019 ► Based on Synchrotron micro-tomography and scanning electron microscopy, this new DFG-funded project pursues an integrative eco-morphological approach to investigate head morphologies of modern, mostly predatory rove beetles. The comparison of morphology with predatory and feeding behaviour will facilitate the interpretation of morphological patterns in a functional and evolutionary context. Hosted by the Evolutionary Biology of Invertebrates group, a PhD position and associated BSc / MSc projects will be available during 2019-2022.


Workshop: `From biological effects to regulation: How can new approaches help in substance evaluation?´

11./12.03.2019 ► EvE hosted a workshop which emerged from the project Effect-Net which is funded as part of the `Wassernetzwerk Baden-Württemberg´ by the state´s Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts. At the event, around 120 representatives from academia, public authorities, research institutes, industries and water suppliers discussed new methods and concepts that enable early detection of environmental damage caused by chemicals. The focus was on the question of how to integrate them into the risk assessment of substances and into the repertoire of methods for assessing water quality.


Publication: TGF-β signalling in Marisa cornuarietis

13.02.2019 ►The process of torsion and the formation of a coiled shell are hallmarks in gastropod evolution. Shell internalization has evolved convergently multiple times in numerous molluscan clades, including various gastropod families. Using Marisa cornuarietis as a model species, Amanda Link et al. (Animal Physiol. Ecology) could show that TGF-β signalling is involved in torsion, shell development and also in shell positioning (Featured paper in J. Moll. Stud.).

Funding: NamTip project funded by BMBF

08.02.2019 ► NamTip aims to foster an improved understanding of degradation processes leading up to desertification tipping points (DTPs) in dry (Namibian) rangelands. The subproject located at the Plant Ecology group will focus on primary productivity and soil seedbank dynamics near DTPs and aims to identify potential early warning signals. Two PhD and several BSc/MSc projects will be available during the 3-year runtime (2019-2022).

Publication: Visual contrast sensitivity in a benthic fish

04.02.2019 ► Spatial resolution is a key property of eyes when it comes to understanding how animals perceive visual signals. In the current paper (J. Vision), Matteo Santon et al. describe the contrast sensitivity function of a small, benthic marine triplefin fish, using an optokinetic reflex approach. Compared to other fish, the authors conclude that such reflex seems to be adapted to process low spatial frequency information from stimuli in the peripheral visual field and show that small marine fish can feature excellent contrast sensitivity at optimal spatial frequency.

Publication: Traction performance in burying beetles

23.01.2019 ► Using a 2 × 3 experimental design, Liesa Schnee et al. (Evol. Biol. of Inverebrates) compared friction and traction forces between two Nicrophorus burying beetle species with different attachment abilities during climbing. Performance differed on smooth surfaces but not on micro-rough and rough surfaces. The study (Beilstein J. Nanotechnol.) suggests that even subtle differences in the adhesion-mediating secretion in closely related species might result in qualitative performance shifts.

Theses opportunities: Updated overview for Plant Ecology

21.01.2019 ► The Plant Ecology group has updated their overview on theses opportunities for BSc and MSc candidates, with a focus on the 2019/2020 period. This complements the general overview on theses opportunities across the EVE research groups

Publication: 3D reconstruction of Trichogramma ommatidium

16.01.2019 ► Stefan Fischer et al. used serial-sectioning transmission electron microscopy (ssTEM) to present a 3D reconstruction at ultrastructural level of a complete ommatidium of a miniaturized insect compound eye (Arhrop. Struct. Dev.). This is the first compound eye study containing volumetric and numerical analyses, revealing insights into the number, size and distribution of cell organelles in ommatidia. The study unveils spatial constraints and adaptations in miniaturized compound eyes and allows to propose cell type specific miniaturization limits depending on metabolic activity of the cells.

Publication: Toxicity of the drug metformin in fish

07.01.2019 ► The antidiabetic drug metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals worldwide and can be detected in surface waters in the low µg/L concentration range. Stefanie Jacob et al. (Animal Physiological Ecology) studied the effects of the pharmaceutical in brown trout larvae. Metformin reduced the weight, enhanced the hepatic glycogen content and changed the composition of the gut microbiome in the test organisms (Env.Sci.Europe).

Publication: Review on the relevance of nano- and microplastics for freshwater ecosystems

14.12.2018 ► Plastic pollution nowadays is an intensely but controversially and, often, rather emotionally discussed issue of environmental concern – both in the scientific community and the general public. In this paper, Rita Triebskorn, Stefanie Krais, Hannah Schmieg and Heinz Köhler from the Animal Physiological Ecology group together with a consortium of collaborating colleagues critically review the state of research today and assess the environmental relevance of small plastics pollution in streams and lakes (Trends in Analytical Chemistry).

Publication: Litter meadow specialist butterfly profits from early mowing

11.12.2018 ► Subalpine litter meadows are traditionally under an autumn harvesting regime. New work by Myrielle Hely et al. (Naturschutz u. Landschaftspl.), however, indicates that current nutrient influx increasingly deteriorates egg deposition habitats for a litter meadow specialist butterfly, the skipper Carcharodus flocciferus. To maintain litter meadow biodiversity, and given difficulties in limiting nutrient influx, the authors suggest optimised early mowing routines to complement conservation actions.

Commission member: Evaluation of Substances Hazardous to Waters (KBwS)

06.12.2018 ► Prof. Rita Triebskorn from the Animal Physiological Ecology group has been appointed as a member of the Commission for the Evaluation of Substances Hazardous to Waters (KBwS). The Commission advises the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) with respect to toxicity assessment of water pollutants. The commission has assembled on 28 Nov 2018.

Welcome Dr. Maria Májeková

01.12.2018 ► Maja Májeková, a plant ecologist from Slovakia, has now joined the Plant Ecology group as an Assistant Professor. Maja will be involved in various Plant Ecology teaching, and expand her research on the relationships between temporal stability, synchrony and plant strategies. She combines field work on semi-natural gradients with long-term field experiments and greenhouse experiments. Welcome!

Goodbye Dr. Michal Gruntman

30.11.2018 ► Sadly, Michal Gruntman is leaving the Plant Ecology group by the end of November 2018, after 8 years in Tübingen. Michal will take up a senior researcher position at the Ben Gurion University in Tel Aviv, Israel. This is an excellent career move for Michal and allows her to establish an independent lab group. We will greatly miss a lovely colleague, teacher and student supervisor, and wish her all the very best and lots of success for the future!

PhD defence: Eleanor Gibson-Forty

19 Nov 2018 ► Eleanor Gibson-Forty has successfully defended her PhD project on 'Intraspecific variation in plant-animal interactions of the Brassicaceae family along a steep rainfall gradient in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin'.


Prize: PhD Award for Carla Lorenz

14 Nov 2018 ► Already in summer 2018, Carla Lorenz of the Animal Physiological Ecology group has received one of the prestigous  awards of the Reinhold and Maria Teufel-Stiftung, for her PhD entitled "Der Einfluss von Nanopartikeln auf die akute Toxizität des neonikotinoiden Insektizids Thiacloprid auf Zuckmückenlarven (Chironomus riparius)". 


Publication: New evidence for male mate choice based on visual cues

16 Nov 2018 ► Male (vs. female) mate choice remains an understudied phenomenon. Using mate preference trials, EVEREST student Deike Lüdtke and Katharina Foerster from the Comparative Zoology group found that male Alpine newts, Ichthyosaura alpestris, spend more time courting colourful, large females as well as less colourful but responsive females (Animal Behaviour). These findings stress the need to consider multiple cues and female compensation mechanisms when investigating male mate choice.

Publication: No support for the "dangerous life" stereotype in Neanderthals

15 Nov 2018 ► Using a quantitative meta-analysis, EVEREST student Judith Beier and co-workers from Paleoanthropology and Animal Evolutionary Ecology refute the previous hypothesis that Neanderthals, compared to Upper Paleolithic modern humans, experienced more traumatic cranial injuries (Nature). The view that violent social interactions and close-range hunting characterised an exceptionally harsh Neanderthal lifestyle thus needs reconsideration. > Uni Tübingen press release  

Publication: Structure and function of the ovipositor of a parasitoid wasp

14 Nov 2018 ► Benjamin Eggs et al. (BMC Zoology) from the Evolutionary Biology of Invertebrates group combined microscopical and microtomographical studies with muscle and leverage analyses to investigate the structure and function of the musculoskeletal ovipositor system of the parasitoid ichneumonid Venturia canescens. This work complements our understanding of a key feature that likely determined the evolutionary success of the megadiverse Ichneumonidae (> 24,000 hitherto described species) and parasitoid hymenopterans in general.

Publication: Stress tolerance determines facilitative plant responses

23 Oct 2018 ► Plant–plant interactions are reciprocal: they include effects on but also responses to direct neighbours. However, how exactly specific traits determine effect and response in facilitative interactions has not been studied experimentally. This new work by Ruichang Zhang and Katja Tielbörger from the Plant Ecology group (New Phytologist) reveals how between-plant interactions vary with salt tolerance traits along a salinity stress gradient.

Publication: Ancient DNA contamination varies with skeletal element type

26 Sep 2018 ► Ancient DNA fragements are increasingly used to reconstruct evolutionary history from excavated animal remains. A key step in these analyses is the validation of an ancient DNA origin, and an assessment of contamination with modern DNA. This collaborative work (Scientific Reports) of Paleogeneticists and Evolutionary Ecologists reveals how DNA content and bone fragment type affect contamination estimates.

Welcome: Neta Manela guest researcher in plant ecology

18 Sep 2018 ► We welcome Neta Manela, a guest PhD student form Ben Gurion University in Israel hosted by the Plant Ecology group under a Minvera grant. Neta will perform a common garden-experiment investigating the effect of smoke exposition on different ecomorphs of plant scpies from a steep climatic gradient.

Funding: PHION - New project on the pH-dependent toxicity of pollutants

14 Sep 2018 ► The cellular uptake and toxicity of ionizable substances strongly depends on their dissociation degree which, in turn, is pH-dependent. The present joint project of the Animal Physiological Ecology group with the University of Athens, funded by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) will systematically generate toxicity and accumulation data and aims at developing models that allow extrapolation of the toxicity of ionizable substances for different pH values.