Helen Gunter and Julia Jones
, fellows at the Zukunftskolleg
(Future College) at the University of Constance
, are investigating two of these factors.
Helen Gunter is interested in the influence of the environment and Julia Jones is researching the level of gene flow between parent fish and their hybrid descendants.
For Julia Jones
, population genetics and evolutionary biology make an important contribution towards an understanding of why and how biological diversity is created and maintained in the natural world.
Research on the interactions between and within species and the correlation with the environment should eventually lead to an understanding of these processes.
A small freshwater fish called Xiphophorus clemenciae is one of the rare species where evidence for natural hybridization is so strong that it is counted among the few examples of the role of hybridization in the process of speciation.
Hybridization is the process of combining different species or varieties of plants and animals to create a hybrid.
research addresses two very important issues in this field: does hybridization tend to consist of rare and isolated events or is it continuously happening over time?
Which regions of the genome introgress and what proportion of the genome is involved?
Cases where hybridization occurred as a rare and isolated event are very difficult for scientists to detect.
A possible solution to this problem is the more precise investigation of the phylogenetic datasets based on genetic markers.
If any incongruity between these datasets is found, there is a strong indication of past hybridization.
"When a signature of past hybridization is found in combination with current hybridization, it is likely that hybridization is ongoing," remarks Julia Jones
therefore concludes that there is no evidence for ongoing hybridization if current hybridization has not been detected.
In polyploid speciation, a new species with a greater number of chromosomes emerges, while recombination speciation is defined as follows: "Hybridization between two species gives rise to a new lineage that is both fertile and true breeding but is reproductively isolated from both parental species," says Julia Jones
also states that another important function of hybridization is the colonization of unexploited niches, i.e. habitats that the parental species could not use.
works with both genetic and non-genetic techniques.
"To understand the nature and impact of hybridization, it is important to investigate a variety of different aspects of the system," she
For this reason, one of the techniques she
uses is next generation sequencing.
This enables her
to rapidly detect genetic variation in both model and non-model organisms.
Environmental factors influencing the genetic structure of populations can be found by using landscape genetic tools.
Through the use of these techniques she
can help to build a complete picture of the processes which lead to hybridization and by extension, to biological diversity.
Dr. Julia Jones