People in the Computational and Molecular Population Genetics (CMPG) lab use molecular techniques, theoretical developments, and computer simulations to reconstruct the demographic history of populations and species from genetic data, and to test between alternative evolutionary scenarios.
We explore the genomic diversity of voles and humans in order to discover which genes have recently responded to selection, for instance to adapt to new environments.
We are also interested in quantifying the effect of range expansions and colonisation processes on genetic diversity, since these demographic events can lead to molecular signatures resembling those of selection.
We also develop and maintain computer programs to study and simulate the genetic diversity of populations, infer demographic parameters under complex scenarios, and detect loci under selection from genome scan.
The CMPG lab is affiliated to the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics.
PLOS Biology - Secondary contact between diverged host lineages entails ecological speciation in a European hantavirus.
A new study by former PhD student Moritz Saxenhofer working with Gerald Heckel shows that the formation of new Tula hantavirus “species” can be triggered by host hybridization. The analysis of a hybrid zone in the common vole Microtus arvalis demonstrated an extremely tight spatial association with distinct Tula virus clades. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that the divergence among virus clades was likely triggered by a shift of an ancestral virus between the previously diverged host lineages in the hybrid zone with subsequent adaptation. Virus genome sequences pointed to the amino-terminal part of the envelope protein as an important region for functional differentiation among these virus clades.