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Molecular Evolution and Systematics

Our research interests are here to understand micro- and macroevolutionary processes of marine invertebrates, primarily using tool of molecular systematics and evolution. On the microevolutionary scale, we are interested in why do marine invertebrate assemblages have the species they do. To what extent are their distributions a product of historical events such as dispersal, vicariance and extinction, or ecological adaptation? We use sponges and starfish as model systems and use primarily phylogeographical methods.

On the macroevolutionary scale we are interested in the phylogenetic relationships between and among the lower metazoan lineages - are sponges monophyletic, what are the relationships to the eumetazoans? What are the implications for the evolution of key metazoan traits? We are also interested in the phylogenetic relationships within the "classes" of Porifera and the evolution of key-morphological and genetic characters, such as the aquiferous system, developmental modes, spiculogenesis, rDNA secondary structure and mitogenome evolution.

Ultimate goal is the reconciliation molecular systematics with paleontological evidence for a better understanding of the processes that shaped the tree of life, from the deep roots to the leaves.

Key publications

Dohrmann, M., Janussen, D., Reitner, J., Collins, A., Wörheide, G., 2008. Phylogeny and evolution of glass sponges (Porifera: Hexactinellida). Systematic Biology 57 (3), 388–405.

Erpenbeck, D., Wörheide, G., 2007. On the molecular phylogeny of sponges (Porifera). Linnaeus Tercentenary: Progress in Invertebrate Taxonomy. Zootaxa 1668, 107–126.

Vogler, C., Benzie, J., Lessios, H., Barber, P., Wörheide, G., 2008. A threat to coral reefs multiplied? Four species of crown-of-thorns starfish. Biology Letters 4, 696–699.

Voigt, O., Erpenbeck, D., Wörheide, G., 2008. Molecular evolution of rDNA in early diverging Metazoa: First comparative analysis and phylogenetic application of complete SSU rRNA secondary structure in Porifera. BMC Evolutionary Biology 8, 69.

Wörheide, G., Epp, L., Macis, L., 2008. Deep genetic divergences among Indo-Pacific populations of the coral reef sponge Leucetta chagosensis (Leucettidae): founder effects, vicariance, or both? BMC Evolutionary Biology 8, 24.

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