Steffen Pauls Talks About Changing Trends in Biodiversity Research

Fast Breaking Paper Commentary, December 2010

Steffen Pauls

Article: Patterns of population structure in two closely related, partially sympatric caddisflies in Eastern Europe: historic introgression, limited dispersal, and cryptic diversity


Authors: Pauls, SU;Theissinger, K;Ujvarosi, L;Balint, M;Haase, P
Journal: J N AMER BENTHOL SOC
Volume: 28, Issue: 3, Page: 517-536, Year: SEP 2009
* Res Inst Senckenberg, Dept Limnol & Conservat, D-63571 Gelnhausen, Germany.
* Field Museum Nat Hist, Pritzker Lab Mol Systemat & Evolut, Chicago, IL 60605 USA.
(Addresses have been truncated)

Steffen Pauls talks with ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about this month's Fast Breaking Paper paper in the field of Plant & Animal Science.


SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

There is an increasing trend in biodiversity research to combine traditional morphological and molecular methods. This is particularly true in organisms where certain life stages play an important role as pests or bioindicators. Larvae of aquatic insects, particularly caddisflies, are excellent indicators of stream health. In these organisms we use molecular tools to associate larval and adult life stages, describe biodiversity, and reveal the evolutionary history of species.

Our study addresses all three of these topics and highlights both the potential of molecular tools in recognizing diversity, but also the potential caveats associated with this approach when lineages have not completely sorted, or hybridization or introgression muddies the picture.

SW: Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

"This study may have indirect environmental implications. The study regions are important hotspots of the European biodiversity."

Our study is a case study using established methods in a poorly known region: the Carpathians and Bulgarian mountain ranges in Eastern Europe. It emphasizes the importance of the region as a hotspot of European biodiversity and recognizes our lack in knowledge of this region's biodiversity, and global biodiversity in general.

Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

Our study uses genetic data to uncover previously unrecognized biological diversity. It thus gives insight on how genetic data can help identify biological diversity, but also shows the limitations of genetic data under certain conditions, in this case historic hybridization of closely related species.

SW: How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way?

Since my Ph.D. work, I have been interested in studying how aquatic insect species diversified and evolved to occupy the habitats and distribution ranges we find them in today. I have always focused on cold-adapted mountain species, as these are particularly vulnerable to future climate change.

A main challenge in our work is collecting our study specimens, which are small, poorly known, and often occur in very specific habitats in inaccessible locales. This requires an enormous amount of organization and great collaborators who know the region well. While this makes the work challenging, it is also one of the most rewarding aspects of my research, and I have met great collaborators and made good friends through field work in many parts of the world.

SW: Where do you see your research leading in the future?

So far, we have used molecular biodiversity patterns to learn how historic climate change affected aquatic insects. We are now using this knowledge to predict how species are likely to respond to future climate change.

SW: Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

This study may have indirect socio-economic implications. The study regions, the Carpathians and Bulgarian mountain ranges, are important hotspots of European biodiversity. But the ecosystems in these regions are increasingly threatened by human activities such as mining, deforestation, and poorly managed tourism development. The endemic cryptic genetic diversity revealed in this study emphasizes the uniqueness of these regions and the importance of conserving their ecosystems and diversity. This may influence future use of these natural resources.End

Dr. Steffen Pauls
Aquatic Evolutionary Ecology
Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

KEYWORDS: COMPARATIVE PHYLOGEOGRAPHY; MTCOI; CARPATHIANS; BALKAN PENINSULA; TRICHOPTERA; AQUATIC INSECTS; POSTGLACIAL COLONIZATION ROUTES; COMPARATIVE PHYLOGEOGRAPHY; GENETIC DIFFERENTIATION; BALKAN PENINSULA; DRUSUS-DISCOLOR; FRESH-WATER; MITOCHONDRIAL INTROGRESSION; BIOLOGICAL IDENTIFICATIONS; PHYLOGENETIC INFERENCE; SYSTEMATIC POSITION.

 
 

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