Forschungsgruppe Salzburger

"Taken as a whole the Tanganyikan cichlids represent the most outstanding example of adaptive radiation of all those to be considered." G. Fryer & T. D. Iles (1972)

More than 150 years after the publication of Charles R. Darwin's The Origin, the identification of the processes governing the emergence of novel species remains a fundamental question to biology. How is it possible that two or more biological entities – species – can emerge from one entity, and continue to be distinct even when coexisting in nature? What are the external factors and environmental conditions that promote this process? What are the molecular mechanisms that underlie it? And why is diversity so unequally distributed across the tree of life, with some groups of organisms having diversified in a seemingly explosive manner, while others have remained virtually unvaried over millions of years? Our research focuses on exactly these questions. More specifically, we are interested in the question of how variation in the DNA translates into organismal diversity and in the identification of the patterns and molecular mechanisms that underlie adaptation, evolutionary innovation, and diversification. The main model systems in our lab are the adaptive radiations of cichlid fishes in East Africa, of Antarctic notothenioid fishes, and of three-spine sticklebacks.

Universität Basel , DUW
Prof. Walter Salzburger
Vesalgasse 1
CH - 4051 Basel

Tel: +41612070303
Fax: +41612070301

Lake Tankanyika in Africa

Lake Tankanyika in Africa


Our research is currently supported by...

 Starting Grant "INGERGENADAPT", European Research Council (ERC)
 Grant 3100A0_138224
 Ambizione Fellowship for Daniel Berner
 Sinergia project with Marcelo Sanchez and Heinz Furrer (Zurich)
 Postdoctoral Fellowship for Astrid Böhne
 PhD Scholarship for Emilia Santos
 Postdoctoral Fellowship for Zuzana Musilova
 Postdoctoral Fellowship for Sara Mae Stieb
 Research expedition to Lake Tanganyika, East Africa
 PhD Scholarship for Fabio Cortesi (1 year)
 Research fellowship (2012) for Fabio Cortesi

Previous grant sponsors were...

 PhD Scholarship for Michael Matschiner
 Grant 3100A0_122458
 Postdoctoral Fellowship for Astrid Böhne
 Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship for Bernd Egger
 PhD Scholarship for Frauke Münzel (1 year)




In the news... (selection)


On the radio...

  • Artenvielfalt: Grenzen im Tierreich. DRadio Wissen (D), 2012/01/12, edited by Katrin Zöfel
  • Hörpunkt: Charles Darwin. Schweizer Radio DRS 2 (CH), 2009/02/02, edited by Odette Frey;check the drs2darwin.blogspot
  • Doppelpunkt: Die Kaulquappe in uns. Schweizer Radio DRS 1 (CH), 2008/06/12, edited by Karin Frei


On TV...

  • Einstein: Fische mit Frostschutz. Schweizer Fernsehen (CH), 2012/03/22, edited by Sandra Odermatt
  • Einstein vom 22.03.2012
  • Einstein: Darwin und die Evolution. Schweizer Fernsehen (CH), 2009/02/12, edited by Catrin Hofstetter


Audio CD...

  • Jaspers, Portmann, Barth und Reichenstein (mit Kommentaren von Anton Hügli, Walter Salzburger, Georg Pfleiderer und Daniel Häusslinger). Merian Verlag (CH), 2010, edited by Matthias Buschle



1.Matschiner M, Z Musilova, JMI Barth, Z Starostova, W Salzburger, M Steel & R Bouckert (2017) Bayesian phylogenetic estimation of clade ages supports trans-Atlantic dispersal of cichlid fishes. Systematic Biology 66: 3-22. .PDF
2.Meyer BS, M Matschiner & W Salzburger (2017) Disentangling incomplete lineage sorting and introgression to refine species-tree estimates for Lake Tanganyika cichlid fishes. Systematic Biology 66: 531-550. .PDF
3.Berner D, M Ammann, E Spencer, A Rüegg, D Lüscher & D Moser D (2017) Sexual isolation promotes divergence between parapatric lake and stream stickleback. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 30: 401-411. .PDF
4.Juric I, W Salzburger & O Balmer (2017) Spread and global population structure of the diamondback moth Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) and its larval parasitoids Diadegma semiclausum and Diadegma fenestrale   (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) based on mtDNA. Bulletin of Entomological Research 107: 155-164. .PDF
5.Lohman BK, D Berner DI & Bolnick (2017) Clines Arc through Multivariate Morphospace. The American Naturalist, in press .PDF
6.Stieb SM, F Cortesi, L Suess, KL Carleton, W Salzburger & NJ Marshall (2017) Why UV vision and red vision are important for damselfish (Pomacentridae): structural and expression variation in opsin genes. Molecular Ecology 26: 1323-1342. .PDF
7.Spinks R, M Muschick, W Salzburger & H Gante (2017) Singing above the chorus: cooperative Princess cichlid fish (Neolamprologus pulcher) has high pitch. Hydrobiologia 791: 115-125. .PDF
8.Theis A, O Roth, F Cortesi, F Ronco, W Salzburger & B Egger (2017) Variation of anal fin egg-spots along an environmental gradient in a haplochromine cichlid fish. Evolution 71: 766-777. .PDF
9.Baldo L, JL Pretus, JL Riera, Z Musilova, AR Bitja Nyom & W Salzburger (2017) Convergence of gut microbiota in the adaptive radiations of African cichlid fishes. ISME Journal 11: 1975-1987. .PDF
10.Cohen AS & W Salzburger (2017) Scientific drilling at Lake Tanganyika, Africa: A transformative record for understanding evolution in isolation and the biological history of the African continent, University of Basel, 6–8 June 2016. Scientific Drilling 22: 43-48. .PDF
11.Lauber C, S Seitz, S Mattei, A Suh, J Beck, J Herstein, J Börold, W Salzburger, L Kaderali, JAG Briggs & R Bartenschlager (2017) Deciphering the origin and evolution of Hepatitis B viruses by means of a family of non-enveloped fish viruses. Cell Host & Microbe 22: 387-399. .PDF
12.Egger B, M Roesti, A Böhne, O Roth & W Salzburger (2017) Demography and genome divergence of lake and stream populations of an East African cichlid fish. Molecular Ecology 26: 5016-5030. .PDF
13.Baalsrud HT, KL Voje, OK Tørresen, MH Solbakken, M Matschiner, R Hanel, W Salzburger, KS Jakobsen & S Jentoft (2017) Evolution of hemoglobin genes in codfishes influenced by ocean depth. Scientific Reports 7: 7956. .PDF
14.Bachmann JC, F Cortesi, MD Hall, NJ Marshall, W Salzburger & HF Gante (2017) Real-time social selection maintains honesty of a dynamic visual signal in cooperative fish. Evolution Letters doi:10.1002/evl3.24 .PDF
15.Berner D & M Roesti (2017) Genomics of adaptive divergence with chromosome-scale heterogeneity in crossover rate. Molecular Ecology 26: 6351-6369.



1.Moser D, A Frey & D Berner (2016) Fitness differences between parapatric lake and stream stickleback revealed by a field transplant. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 29: 711-719. .PDF
2.Ronco F & W Salzburger (2016) Speciation: Genomic archipelagos in a crater lake. Current Biology 26: R197-R199. .PDF
3.Colombo M, A Indermaur, BS Meyer & W Salzburger (2016) Habitat use and its implications to functional morphology: niche partitioning and the evolution of locomotory morphology in Lake Tanganyikan cichlids (Perciformes: Cichlidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 118: 536–550. .PDF
4.Göppert C, RM Harris, A Theis, A Boila, S Hohl, A Rüegg, HA Hofmann, W Salzburger & A Böhne (2016) Inhibition of aromatase induces partial sex change in a cichlid fish: Distinct functions for sex steroids in brains and gonads. Sexual Development 10: 97-110. .PDF
5.Stieb SM, KL Calreton, F Cortesi, NJ Marschall & W Salzburger (2016) Depth-dependent plasticity in opsin gene expression varies between damselfish (Pomacentridae) species. Molecular Ecology 25: 3645-3661. .PDF
6.Gante HF, M Matschiner, M Malmstrøm, KS Jakobsen, S Jentoft & W Salzburger (2016) Genomics of speciation and introgression in Princess cichlid fishes from Lake Tanganyika. Molecular Ecology 25: 6143-6161. .PDF
7.Stange M, G Aguirre-Fernandez, RG Cooke, T Barros, W Salzburger & MR Sanchez-Villagra (2016) Evolution of opercle bone shape along a macrohabitat gradient: species identification using mtDNA and geometric morphometric analyses in neotropical sea catfishes (Ariidae). Ecology and Evolution 6: 5817-5830. .PDF

Malmstrøm M, M Matschiner, OK Tørresen, B Star, LG Snipen, TF Hansen, HT Baalsrud, AJ Nederbragt, R Hanel, W Salzburger, NC Stenseth, KS Jakobsen & S Jentoft (2016) Evolution of the immune system influences speciation rates in teleost fishes. Nature Genetics 48: 1204-1210. .PDF (see NEWS & VIEWS by P Parham).

9.Cortesi F, Z Musilova, SM Stieb, NS Hart, UE Siebeck, KL Cheney, W Salzburger & NJ Marshall (2016) From crypsis to mimicry: changes in colour and the configuration of the visual system during ontogenetic habitat transitions in a coral reef fish. Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 2545-2558. .PDF
10.Santos ME, L Baldo, L Gu, N Boileau, Z Musilova & W Salzburger (2016) Comparative transcriptomics of anal fin pigmentation patterns in cichlid fishes. BMC Genomics 17: 712 .PDF
11.Dukic M, D Berner, M Roesti, CR Haag & D Ebert (2016) A high-density genetic map reveals variation in recombination rate across the genome of Daphnia magna. BMC Genetics 17: 137. .PDF
12.Malinsky M & W Salzburger (2016) Environmental context for understanding the iconic adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes in Lake Malawi. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113: 11654-11656. .PDF
13.Böhne A, CA Wilson, JH Postlethwait & W Salzburger (2016) Variation of a theme: Genomics of sex determination in the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni. BMC Genomics 17:883. .PDF

Abila R, P Akoll, C Albertson, D Antunes, T Banda, R Bills, A Bulirani, MA Chocha, AS Cohen, F Cunha-Saraiva, S Derycke, I Donohue, M Du, AM Dudu, B Egger, K Fritzsche, JG Frommen, HF Gante, MJ Genner, A Harer, H Hata, K Irvine, MP Isumbisho, LJ de Bisthoven, A Jungwirth, P Kaleme, C Katongo, L Kever, S Koblmuller, A Konings, A Lamboj, F Lemmel-Schaedelin, GM Schiaffino, K Martens, PM Mulungula, MP Masilya. A Meyer, HL More, Z Musilova, BF Muterezi, R Muzumani, G Ntakimazi, W Okello, H Phiri, L Pialek, PD Plisnier, JAM Raeymaekers, J Rajkov, O Rican, R Roberts, W Salzburger, I Schoen, KM Sefc, P Singh, P Skelton, J Snoeks, K Schneider, C Sturmbauer, H Svardal, O Svensson, JT Dowdall, GF Turner, A Tyers, JC van Rijssel, M Van Steenberge, MPM Vanhove, E Verheyen, AT Weber, O Weyl, A Ziegelbecker, H Zimmermann (2016) Oil extraction imperils Africa's Great Lakes. Science 354: 561-562. .PDF



Meyer B, M Matschiner & W Salzburger (2015) A tribal level phylogeny of Lake Tanganyika cichlid fishes based on a genomic multi-marker approach. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 83: 56-71. .PDF


Cortesi F, Z Musilova, SM Stieb, NS Hart, UE Siebeck, M Malmstrøm, OK Tørrensen, S Jentoft, KL Cheney, NJ Marshall, KL Carleton & W Salzburger (2015) Ancestral duplications and highly dynamic opsin gene evolution in percomorph fishes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112: 1493-1498. .PDF

(see comment by RM Harris & H Hofmann).


Colombo M, M Damerau, R Hanel, W Salzburger & M Matschiner (2015) Diversity and disparity through time in the adaptive radiation of Antarctic notothenioid fishes. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28: 376-394. .PDF


Egger B, Y Klaefiger, A Indermaur, S Koblmüller, A Theis, S Egger, T Näf, M Van Steenberge, C Sturmbauer, C Katongo & W Salzburger (2015) Phylogeographic and phenotypic assessment of a basal haplochromine cichlid fish from Lake Chila, Zambia. Hydrobiologia 748: 171-184. .PDF


Matschiner M, M Colombo, M Damerau, S Ceballos, R Hanel & W Salzburger (2015) The adaptive radiation of notothenioid fishes in the waters of Antarctica. in: Extremophile Fishes: Ecology, Evolution, and Physiology of Teleosts in Extreme Environments (Riesch R, M Tobler & M Plath, eds.), pp. 35-57. .PDF


Meyer BS, A Indermaur, X Ehrensperger, B Egger, G Banyankimbona, J Snoeks & W Salzburger (2015) Back to Tanganyika: a case of recent trans-species-flock dispersal in East African haplochromine cichlid fishes. Royal Society Open Science 2: 140498. .PDF


Cortesi F, WE Feeney, MCO Ferrari, PA Waldie, GAC Phillips, EC McClure, HN Sköld, W Salzburger, NJ Marshall & KL Cheney (2015) Phenotypic plasticity confers multiple fitness benefits to a mimic. Current Biology 25: 949-954. .PDF(see video abstract)


Juric I, W Salzburger, H Luka & O Balmer (2015) Molecular markers for Diadegma (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) species distinction and their use to study the effects of companion plants on biocontrol of the diamondback moth. BioControl 60: 179-187. .PDF


Wilkinson GS, F Breden, JE Mank, MG Ritchie, AD Higginson, J Radwan, J Jaquirey, W Salzburger, A Arriero, SM Barribeau, PC Phillips, SCP Renn & L Rowe (2015) The locus of sexual selection: moving sexual selection studies into the post-genomics era. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28: 739-755. .PDF


Buonerba L, S Zaccara, GB Delmastro, M Lorenzoni, W Salzburger & HF Gante (2015) Intrinsic and extrinsic factors act at different spatial and temporal scales to shape population structure, distribution and speciation in Italian Barbus(Osteichthyes: Cyprinidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 89: 115-129. .PDF

11.Baldo L, JL Riear, A Tooming-Klunderud, MM Alba & W Salzburger (2015) Gut microbiota dynamics during dietary shift in East African cichlid fishes. PLoS ONE 10: e0127462. .PDF
12.Theis A, T Bosia, T Roth, W Salzburger & B Egger (2015) Egg-spot pattern and body size asymmetries influence male aggression in haplochromine cichlid fishes. Behavioral Ecology. .PDF
13.Berner D & W Salzburger (2015) The genomics of organismal diversification illuminated by adaptive radiations. Trends in Genetics 31: 491-499. .PDF
14.Lorin T, W Salzburger & A Böhne (2015). Evolutionary fate of the androgen receptor signaling pathway in ray-finned fishes with a special focus on cichlids. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics g3-115. .PDF

Berner D & X Thibert-Plante (2015) How mechanisms of habitat preference evolve and promote divergence with gene flow. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28: 1641-1655. .PDF


Moser D, B Kueng & D Berner (2015) Lake-stream divergence in stickleback life history: a plastic response to trophic niche differentiation? Evolutionary Biology 42: 328-338. .PDF

17.Boileau N, F Cortesi, B Egger, M Muschick, A Indermaur, A Theis, HH Büscher & W Salzburger (2015) A complex mode of aggressive mimicry in a scale-eating cichlid fish. Biology Letters 11: 20150521. .PDF

Roesti M, B Kueng, D Moser & D Berner (2015) The genomics of ecological vicariance in threespine stickleback fish. Nature Communications 6: 8767. .pdf

19.Wilson LAB, M Colombo, MR Sanchez-Villagra & W Salzburger (2015) Evolution of opercle shape in cichlid fishes from Lake Tanganyika - adaptive trait interactions inextant and extinct species flocks. Scientific Reports 5: 16909 .PDF



Faria R, S Renaut , J Galindo, C Pinho, J Melo-Ferreira, M Melo, F Jones, W Salzburger, D Schluter & R Butlin (2014) Advances in ecological speciation: an integrative approach. Molecular Ecology 23: 513-521. .PDF


Damerau M, M Matschiner, W Salzburger & R Hanel (2014) Population divergence despite long pelagic larval stages: lessons from crocodile icefishes (Channichthyidae). Molecular Ecology 23: 284-299. .PDF


Berner D, D Moser, M Roesti, H Buescher & W Salzburger (2014) Genetic architecture of skeletal evolution in European lake and stream stickleback. Evolution 68: 1792-1805. .PDF


Heule C, W Salzburger & A Böhne (2014) Genetics of sexual development – an evolutionary playground for fish.Genetics 196: 579-591. .PDF


Roesti M, S Gavrilets, A Hendry, W Salzburger & D Berner (2014) The genomic signature of parallel adaptation from shared genetic variation. Molecular Ecology 23: 3944-3956. .PDF(see News & Views by JJ Welch & CD Jiggins)

6.Dittmann MT, Runge U, Lang R, Moser D, Galeffi C, Kreuzer M & M Clauss (2014) Methane emission by camelids.PLoS ONE 9:e94363.

Tropek R, Sedláček O, Beck J, Keil P, Musilová Z, Šímová I, & D Storch (2014) Comment on “High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change”. Science 344: 981d.


Brawand D, Wagner CE, Li YI, Malinsky M, Keller I, Fan S, Simakov O, Ng AY, Lim ZW, Bezault E, Turner-Maier J, Johnson J, Alcazar R, Noh HJ, Russell P, Aken B, Alfoldi J, Amemiya C, Azzouzi N, Baroiller J-F, Barloy-Hubler F, Berlin A, Bloomquist R, Carleton KL, Conte ME, D’Cotta H, Eshel O, Gaffney L, Galibert F, Gante HF, Gnerre S, Greuter L, Guyon R, Haddad NS, Haerty W, Harris RM, Hofmann HA, Hourlier T, Hulata G, Jaffe DB, Lara M, Lee AP, MacCallum I, Mwaiko S, Nikaido M, Nishihara H, Ozouf-Costaz C, Penman DJ, Przybylski D, Rakotomanga M, Renn SCP, Ribeiro FJ, Ron M, Salzburger W, Sanchez-Pulido L, Santos ME, Searle S, Sharpe T, Swofford R, Tan FJ, Williams L, Young S, Yin S, Okada N, Kocher TD, Miska EA, Lander ES, Venkatesh B, Fernald RD, Meyer A, Ponting CP, Streelman JT, Lindblad-Toh K, Seehausen O & F Di Palma (2014) The genomic substrate for adaptive radiation in African cichlid fish. Nature 513: 375-381. .PDF(see News & Views by CD Jiggins)


Musilova Z, A Indermaur, AR Bitja Nyom, R Tropek, C Martin & U Schliewen (2014) Persistence of Stomatepia mongo, an endemic cichlid fish of the Barombi Mbo Crater Lake, southwestern Cameroon, with notes on its life history and behavior. Copeia 2014: 556-560. .PDF


Muschick M, P Nosil, M Roesti, MT Dittmann, L Harmon & W Salzburger (2014) Testing the stages model in the adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes in East African Lake Tanganyika. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 281: 20140605. .PDF


Böhne A, T Sengstag & W Salzburger (2014) Comparative transcriptomics in East African cichlids reveals sex and species-specific expression and new candidates for sex differentiation in fishes. Genome Biology and Evolution 6: 2567-2585. .PDF


Cheney KL, F Cortesi, MJ How, NG Wilson, SP Blomberg, AE Winters, S Umanzör & NJ Marshall (2014) Conspicuous visual signals do not coevolve with increased body size in marine sea slugs. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27: 676-687. .PDF


Van den Broeck F, L Meurs, JAM Raeymaekers, N Boon, TN Dieye, FAM Volckaert, K Polman & T Huyse (2014) Inbreeding within human Schistosoma mansoni: do host-specific factors shape the genetic composition of parasite populations? Heredity 113: 32–41.


Chaturvedi A, JAM Raeymaekers & FAM Volckaert (2014) Computational identification of miRNAs, their targets and functions in three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Molecular Ecology Resources 14: 768-777.


Vandamme SG, GE Maes JAM Raeymaekers, K Cottenie, AK Imsland, B Hellemans, G Lacroix, E Mac Aoidh, JT Martinsohn, P Martínez, J Robbens, R Vilas & FAM Volckaert (2014) Regional environmental pressure influences population differentiation in turbot (Scophthalmus maximus). Molecular Ecology 23: 618-636.


Roesti M & W Salzburger (2014) Natural selection: it's a many-small world after all. Current Biology 24: R959-962. .PDF


Santos ME, I Braasch, N Boileau, BS Meyer, L Sauteur, A Böhne, H-G Belting, M Affolter & W Salzburger (2014) The evolution of cichlid fish egg-spots is linked with a cis-regulatory change. Nature Communications 5: 5149. .PDF


Indermaur A (2014) Über den Tellerrand geschaut - Buntbarsche aus dem Lufubu. Die Aquarien- und Terrarien-Zeitschrift (DATZ) 2014 (10): 16-23. .PDF


Theis A, F Ronco, A Indermaur, W Salzburger & B Egger (2014) Adaptive divergence between lake and stream populations of an East African cichlid fish. Molecular Ecology 23: 5304-5322. .PDF


Salzburger W, B Van Bocxlaer & AS Cohen (2014) Ecology and evolution of the African Great Lakes and their faunas. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 45: 519-545. .PDF