Co-evolution occurs if two or more interacting partners influence each other’s evolution in a reciprocal fashion. It is often the basis and/or outcome of interspecific interactions and plays therefore a fundamental role in the ecology and evolution of species. In this course we will focus on co-evolutionary processes between species and molecules and set practical emphasis on symbiotic and antagonistic interactions. You will get familiar with principles of coevolution taken from all areas of life (human biology, botany, zoology) and understand the importance of co-evolutionary processes for humanity and environment regarding their implications on climate change, biodiversity and (human) health. In the practical parts of the course, you will perform genetic analyses of a symbiotic system using lichens as a model and design and perform your own plant infection experiment. You will acquire and refine skills in molecular biology and genetics, experimental design, plant pathology and physiology, microbiology, statistical data analysis as well as interpretation, visualization and presentation of scientific results.
Experiencing the principles of antagonistic and symbiotic coevolution. Top left: Students “in action” during a plant infection experiment. Top right: Results after successful infection (upper row: infected leaves; lower row: control treatments; courtesy of previous students D. Ankel, M. Ganser, F. Stross). Bottom: “Molecular footprints” of coevolution as visualized for pairs of myco- and photobionts isolated from lichens from Antarctica (courtesy of previous students D. Ankel, M. Ganser, F. Stross).