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Pristionchus – Population Ecology and Genetics

© Ralf Sommer/MPI for Developmental Biology, Tübingen

One of the central aims of the Department is to work towards a better integration of studies on macroevolution, microevolution and ecology with developmental genetics and evo-devo.

Therefore, as well as our ongoing research in Pristionchus evo-devo, we are attempting to incorporate the dynamics of natural variation into our research focus. While the distribution of P. pacificus is globally widespread, we have discovered an enormous diversity of P. pacificus on La Réunion Island, that covers basically all known haplotype.

Since 2010 we have an evolutionary field station on La Réunion island. La Réunion is a particularly well-suited location for our purposes - the island is young (< 2 Ma), has a high number of endemic scarab beetles, and is a French overseas department with an outstanding infrastructure. Updated information on our population genetic and ecological work on the island can be found on our website about La Réunion.

On La Réunion, we study the adaptation of P. pacificus to various extreme environments, such as oxygen and temperature adaptations at high altitude locations.

Scientists involved:

  • Penghieng Theam, Ph.D. Student
  • Hanh Witte, Technician

Selected References:

Dardiry, M., Eberhardt, G., Witte, H., Roedelsperger, C., Lightfoot, J. W. & R. J. Sommer, R.J. (2023):  Divergent combinations of cis-regulatory elements control the evolution of phenotypic plasticity. PLoS Biology, 21, e3002270

Renahan, T. & R. J. Sommer (2022): Multidimensional competition of nematodes affects plastic traits in a beetle ecosystem. Front. Cell Dev. Biol., 10, 985831.

Lo, W.-S., Han, Z., Witte, H., Röseler, W. & R. J. Sommer (2022): Synergistic interaction of gut microbiota enhances the growth of nematode through neuroendocrine signaling. Current Biology, 32, 2037-2050.

Featured in: MacNeil, L.T. (2022): Microbiomes: How a gut bacterium promotes healthier living in a nematode. Current Biology, 32, R428-R430

Leaver, M., Moreno, E., Kayhan, M., McGaughran, A., Rödelsperger, C., Sommer, R.J., A. A. Hyman (2021): Adaptation to environmental temperature in divergent clades of the nematode Pristionchus pacificus. Evolution, 76, 1660-1673.

Renahan, T. & R. J. Sommer (2021): Nematode interactions on beetle hosts indicate a role of mouth-form plasticity in resource competition. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 9:752695.

Renahan, T., Lo, W.-S., Werner, M. S., Herrmann, M., Rochat, J. & R. J. Sommer (2020): Nematode biphasic ‘boom and bust’ dynamics are dependent on host bacterial load while linking dauer and mouth-form polyphenisms. Environm. Microbiology, 23, 5102-5113

Meyer, J. M., Baskaran, P., Quast, C., Susoy, V., Rödelsperger, C., Glöckner, F. O.  & Sommer, R. J. (2017): Succession and dynamics of Pristionchus nematodes and their microbiome during decomposition of Oryctes borbonicus on La Réunion Island. Environm. Microbiology, 19, 1476-1489.
Featured in: Giblin-Davis, R. M. (2017): Who has “Dibs!” on a dead rhinoceros beetle? Environm. Microbiology, 19, 2115-2116.

McGaughran, A., Rödelsperger, C., Grimm, D. G., Meyer, J. M., Moreno, E., Morgan, K., Leaver, M., Serobyan, V., Rakitsch, B., Borgwardt, K. M.  & Sommer, R. J. (2016): Genome-wide profiles of diversification and genotype-phenotype association in nematodes from La Réunion Island. Mol Biol Evol.33, 2257-2272.

Moreno, E., McGaughran, A., Zimmer, M. & Sommer, R. J. (2016): Oxygen-induced social behaviors in Pristionchus pacificus have a distinct evolutionary history and genetic regulation than Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc. Roy. Soc. B, 283(1825): 20152263. doi:10.1098/rspb.2015.2263.