Integrative Evolutionary Biology

Director: Ralf J. Sommer
Personal Assistant: Maria Gölz
Phone: +49 7071 601-441
Fax: +49 7071 601-498

Staff: Alphabetical List | Alumni
References: Publication List

For more information, please visit our Department Website



Life on Earth resulted in an astonishing diversity of form and phenotype. But our understanding on how this diversity is generated as a result of historical processes is still limited. We use a highly interdisciplinary approach that integrates development, ecology and population genetics to unravel the mechanistic changes that give rise to evolutionary alterations and novelty (Sommer, 2009). For this to be achieved well-selected model organisms with a sophisticated analytical toolkit for functional investigations have to be developed. We have established the free-living nematode Pristionchus pacificus as a model system in evolutionary biology. P. pacificus combines in a unique manner, laboratory studies building on genetic, genomic and transgenic tools with field work in ecology and population genetics.

Research Topics

Lightfoot, J. W., Dardiry, M., Kalirad, A., Giaimo, S., Eberhardt, G., Witte, H., Wilecki, M., Roedelsperger, C., Traulsen, A., & Sommer, R.J. (2021):  Sex or cannibalism: polyphenism and kin recognition control social action startegies in nematodes. Science Advances, 7, eabg8042.

Theska, T., Sieriebriennikov, B., Wighard, S. S., Werner, M. S. & Sommer, R. J. (2020): Geometric morphometrics of microscopic animals as exemplified in model nematodes. Nature Protocols, 15, 2611-2644.

Sommer, R. J. (2020): Phenotypic Plasticity: from theory and genetics to current and future challenges. Genetics, 215, 1-13.

Sieriebriennikov, B., Sun, S., Lightfoot, J.W., Witte, H., Moreno, E., Rödelsperger, C., & Sommer, R.J. (2020): Conserved hormone-recptors controlling a novel plastic trait target fast-evolving genes expressed in a single cell. PLoS Genetics, 16, e1008687.

Lightfoot, J. W., Wilecki, M., Roedelsperger, C., Moreno, E., Susoy, V., Witte, H., Sommer, R. J. (2019): Small peptide mediated self-recognition prevents cannibalism in predatory nematodes. Science, 364, 86-89. doi:10.1126/science.aav9856.

Sieriebriennikov, B., Prabh, N., Dardiry, M., Witte, H., Rödelsperger, C., Röseler, W., Kieninger, M. R. & Sommer, R. J. (2018): A developmental switch generating phenotypic plasticity is part of a conserved multi-gene locus. Cell Reports, 23, 2835-2843.

Serobyan, V., Xiao, H., Rödelsperger, C., Namdeo, S., Röseler, W., Witte, H. & Sommer, R. J. (2016): Chromatin remodeling and antisense-mediate up-regulation of the developmental switch gene eud-1 control predatory feeding plasticity. Nature Commun. 7, 12337.

Susoy, V., Ragsdale, E. J., Kanzaki, N. & Sommer, R. J. (2015): Rapid diversification associated with a macroevolutionary pulse of developmental plasticity. eLIFE, 4:e05463.

Ragsdale, E., Müller, M., Roedelsperger, C. & Sommer, R. J. (2013): A develomental switch coupled to the evolution of plasticity acts through a sulfatase. Cell, 155, 922-933.

Bumbarger, D. J., Riebesell, M., Rödelsperger, C. & Sommer, R. J. (2013): System-wide circuit reorganization underlying behavioral differences between predatory and bacterial feeding nematodes. Cell, 152, 109-119.

Bento, G., Ogawa, A. & Sommer, R. J. (2010): Co-option of the endocrine signaling module Dafachronic Acid-DAF-12 in nematode evolution. Nature, 466, 494-497.