Prof. Dr. Gerald Heckel

Group leader

+41 31 684 30 29
Postal Address
Institute of Ecology and Evolution
University of Bern
Baltzerstrasse 6
CH-3012 Bern

Research interests

I have relatively diverse research interests in evolutionary biology with topics ranging from speciation and reproductive isolation, invasion processes, behavior genetics to host-pathogen co-evolution. Research approaches span genome and transcriptome analyses as well as the use of "classical" molecular markers and morphological data, but we may also set up specific experiments in the laboratory and perform extensive observations in the field. Study organisms are most often rodents of the Microtus and Myodes genus and their more or less faithful parasites, but also other vertebrates and invertebrates. My recent publications below give a flavor of my research interests and study organisms.

Editorial boards

Conservation Biology, since 2013
Heredity, since 2016
BMC Genetics, 2009 - 2020

Curriculum vitae

2010- Group leader, CMPG, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern
2019 Outstanding teaching evaluation, Faculty of Science, University of Bern
2018 Teacher of the Year, Department of Biology, University of Bern
Associate Professor, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern
Offer for Full Professorship for Ecology and Evolution, University of Mainz, Germany; declined
2010  Offer for Associate Professorship for Molecular Ecology, University of Frankfurt, Germany; declined
2008  Habilitation, Venia Docendi for Molecular Ecology, University of Bern
2001-2009  Research group leader, CMPG, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern
2000-2001  Postdoc, Zoological Institute, University of Bern
1996-2000  PhD thesis with Prof. Dr. Otto von Helversen, Institute of Zoology, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
14 months of fieldwork in Costa Rica and Panama
1989-1995  Undergraduate studies of biology at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany



Xuejing Wang, Qindong Tang, Moritz Saxenhofer, Miriam A. Zemanova, Sonja Kittl*, Mathias Beysard, Heidi Lischer, Yang Liu, Martin C. Fischer, Jörg Hahne*, Sabine Fink, Gabriele Soland-Reckeweg*, *co-supervision


Elie Tièche, Joana Rechsteiner, Guy-Alain Schnidrig, Melanie Hiltbrunner, Vanessa Weber de Melo, Yvonne Zürcher, Rebecca Krebs-Wheaton, Joana I. Meier, Irma Glatt, Eveline Kindler, Andreas Gschwind, Rahel Struchen, Andreas Sutter, Barbara Walser, Nicole Weyeneth, Sonja Braaker, Raphael Rytz, Birgit Thorenz, Manuel Schweizer, Sabine Fink, Reto Burri

BSc (since 2007)

Thomas von Graffenried, Ivan Spöcker, Tobias Böni, Joana Rechsteiner, Elie Tièche, Guy-Alain Schnidrig, Marco Felber, Till Meyer zu Westram, Lorena Singer, Livio Bätscher, Melanie Hiltbrunner, Moritz Hilty, Sandro Sterchi, Jessica Schär, Joana I. Meier, Irma Glatt, Laetitia Schmid, Andreas Gschwind, Tobias Züst, Marco Thoma, Rebekka Schranz, Adrian Dietrich, Kay Lucek, Silvia Zingg  + 13 Advanced Research Practical Students 2002-2006

Selected publications

Journal articles

  • Labutin A & Heckel G (2024) Genome-wide support for incipient Tula hantavirus species within a single rodent host lineage. Virus Evolution 10: 1-14 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Mehl C, Adeyemi OA, Wylezich C, Höper D, Beer M, Triebenbacher C, Heckel G & Ulrich RG (2024) Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis virus lineage V in wood mice, Germany. Emerging Infectious Diseases 30: 399-401 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Wang X, Peischl S & Heckel G (2023) Demographic history and genomic consequences of 10,000 generations of isolation in a wild mammal. Current Biology 33: 2051-2062 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Saxenhofer M, Labutin A, White TA & Heckel G (2022) Host genetic factors associated with the range limit of a European hantavirus. Molecular Ecology 31: 252-265 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Tang Q, Burri R, Liu Y, Suh A, Sundev G, Heckel G & Schweizer M (2022) Seasonal migration patterns and the maintenance of evolutionary diversity in a cryptic bird radiation. Molecular Ecology 31: 632-645 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Schneider J, Hoffmann B, Fevola C, Schmidt ML, Imholt C, Fischer S, Ecke F, Hörnfeldt B, Magnusson M, Olsson GE, Rizzoli A, Tagliapetra V, Chiari M, Reusken C, Bužan E, Kazimirova M, Stanko M, White TA, Reil D, Obiegala A, Meredith A, Drexler JF, Essbauer S, Henttonen H, Jacob J, Hauffe HC, Beer M, Heckel G & Ulrich RG (2021) Geographical distribution and genetic diversity of bank vole hepaciviruses in Europe. Viruses 13: e1258 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Hiltbrunner M & Heckel G (2020) Assessing genome-wide diversity in European hantaviruses through sequence capture from natural host samples. Viruses 12: 749 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Saxenhofer M, Schmidt S, Ulrich RG & Heckel G (2019) Secondary contact between diverged host lineages entails ecological speciation in a European hantavirus. PLOS Biology 17: 1-20. e3000142 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Jeske K, Hiltbrunner M, Drewes S, Ryll R, Wenk M, Spakova A, Petraityte-Burneikiene R, Heckel G & Ulrich RG (2019) Field vole-associated Traemmersee hantavirus from Germany represents a novel hantavirus species. Virus Genes 55: 848-853 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Wang X, Que P, Heckel G, Hu J, Zhang X, Chiang CY, Zhang N, Huang Q, Liu S, Martinez J, Pagani-Nunez E, Dingle C, Yan LY, Székely T, Zhang Z & Liu Y (2019) Genetic, phenotypic and ecological differentiation suggests incipient speciation in two Charadrius plovers along the Chinese coast. BMC Evolutionary Biology 19: e135 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Li HS, Heckel G, Huang YH, Fan WJ, Slipinski A & Pang H (2019) Genomic changes in the biological control agent Cryptolaemus montrouzieri associated with introduction. Evolutionary Applications 12: 989-1000. [Abstract and pdf]
  • Pedreschi DJ, Yannic G, Cantarello E, Diaz A, Golicher D, Korstjens A, Heckel G, Searle JB, Gillingham P, Hardouin E & Stewart JR (2019) Challenging the European southern refugium hypothesis: Species‐specific structures versus general patterns of genetic diversity and differentiation among small mammals. Global Ecology and Biogeography 28: 262-274 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Zemanova MA, Broennimann O, Guisan A, Knop E & Heckel G (2018) Slimy invasion: Climatic niche and current and future biogeography of Arion slug invaders. Diversity and Distributions 24: 1627-1640 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Saxenhofer M, Weber de Melo V, Ulrich RG & Heckel G (2017) Revised time scales of RNA virus evolution based on spatial information. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20170857 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Zemanova MA, Knop E & Heckel G (2017) Introgressive replacement of natives by invading Arion pest slugs. Scientific Reports 7: 14908 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Drewes S, Sheikh Ali H, Saxenhofer M, Rosenfeld UM, Binder F, Cuypers F, Schlegel M, Röhrs S, Heckel G & Ulrich RG (2017) Host-associated absence of human Puumala virus infections in northern and eastern Germany. Emerging Infectious Diseases 23: 83-86 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Zemanova MA, Knop E & Heckel G (2016) Phylogeographic past and invasive presence of Arion pest slugs in Europe. Molecular Ecology 25: 5747–5764 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Beysard M, Krebs-Wheaton R & Heckel G (2015) Tracing reinforcement through asymmetrical partner preference in the European common vole Microtus arvalis. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 170 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Weber de Melo V, Sheikh Ali H, Freise J, Kuhnert D, Essbauer SS, Mertens M, Wanka KM, Drewes S, Ulrich RG & Heckel G (2015) Spatiotemporal dynamics of Puumala hantavirus associated with its rodent host, Myodes glareolus. Evolutionary Applications 8: 545-559 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Lischer HEL, Excoffier L & Heckel G (2014) Ignoring heterozygous sites biases phylogenomic estimates of divergence times: implications for the evolutionary history of Microtus voles. Molecular Biology and Evolution 31: 817-831 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Beysard M & Heckel G (2014) Structure and dynamics of hybrid zones at different stages of speciation in the common vole (Microtus arvalis). Molecular Ecology 23: 673-687 [Abstract and pdf]
  • White TA, Perkins SE, Heckel G & Searle JB (2013) Adaptive evolution during an ongoing range expansion: the invasive bank vole (Myodes glareolus) in Ireland. Molecular Ecology 22: 2971-2985 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Sutter A, Beysard M & Heckel G (2013) Sex-specific clines support incipient speciation in a common European mammal. Heredity 110: 398-404 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Bastos-Silveira C, Santos SM, Monarca R, Mathias ML & Heckel G (2012) Deep mitochondrial introgression and hybridization between ecologically divergent vole species. Molecular Ecology 21: 5309-5323 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Kindler E, Arlettaz R & Heckel G (2012) Deep phylogeographic divergence and cytonuclear discordance in the grasshopper Oedaleus decorus. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 65: 695-704 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Liu Y, Keller I & Heckel G (2012) Breeding site fidelity and winter admixture in a long-distance migrant, the tufted duck (Aythya fuligula). Heredity 109: 108-116 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Fischer MC, Foll M, Excoffier L & Heckel G (2011) Enhanced AFLP genome scans detect local adaptation in high-altitude populations of a small rodent (Microtus arvalis). Molecular Ecology 20: 1450-1462 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Hahne J, Jenkins T, Halle S & Heckel G (2011) Establishment success and resulting fitness consequences for vole dispersers. Oikos 120: 95-105 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Fink S, Fischer MC, Excoffier L & Heckel G (2010) Genomic scans support repetitive continental colonization events during the rapid radiation of voles (Rodentia: Microtus): the utility of AFLPs versus mitochondrial and nuclear sequence markers. Systematic Biology 59: 548-572 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Johne R, Heckel G, Plenge-Bonig A, Kindler E, Maresch C, Reetz J, Schielke A & Ulrich RG (2010) Novel hepatitis E virus genotype in Norway rats, Germany. Emerging Infectious Diseases 16: 1452-1455 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Braaker S & Heckel G (2009) Transalpine colonisation and partial phylogeographic erosion by dispersal in the common vole Microtus arvalis. Molecular Ecology 18: 2518-2531 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Ruedi M, Walter S, Fischer MC, Scaravelli D, Excoffier L & Heckel G (2008) Italy as a major Ice Age refuge area for the bat Myotis myotis (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) in Europe. Molecular Ecology 17: 1801-1814 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Schweizer M, Excoffier L & Heckel G (2007) Fine-scale genetic structure and dispersal patterns in the common vole Microtus arvalis. Molecular Ecology 16: 2463-2473 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Fink S, Excoffier L & Heckel G (2006) Mammalian monogamy is not controlled by a single gene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 103: 10956-10960 [Abstract and pdf]
  • Excoffier L & Heckel G (2006) Computer programs for population genetics data analysis: a survival guide. Nature Reviews Genetics 7: 745-758 [Abstract]
  • Heckel G, Burri R, Fink S, Desmet J-F & Excoffier L (2005) Genetic structure and colonization processes in European populations of the common vole Microtus arvalis. Evolution 59(10): 2231-2242 [pdf]