CURRENT PROJECTS

Craniofacial evo-devo (Laboratory for the study of craniofacial evolution & development)

We study morphogenesis of several cranial (head) structures of vertebrates like pharyngeal arch cartilages, jaws, teeth, or attachment organs/cement glands. By comparing development of different animals (e.g., amphibians, bichirs, acipensers or lampreys) we are looking for dissimilarities in developmental processes in order to discover key developmental changes responsible for production of morphological variation, novelties and evolutionary change.

Paleobiogeography and evolutionary dynamics of the genus Apodemus (Rodentia, Muridae) in the Late Cenozoic of Central Europe (M. Knitlová & I. Horáček)

Muroid rodents of the genus Apodemus rank among the dominant elements of European mammalian communities, and present a model subject of numerous zoological studies.  In the European fossil record genus Apodemus presents an index element of the interglacial communities. Yet, due to more reasons, its fossil records has not been properly evaluated and direct data on range history of particular species of the genus and dynamics of their occurrence in central Europe are largely missing. The aim of the project is to fill the gap. The project proposes a physical revision of existing fossil material of the genus from the Pliocene and Quaternary assemblages of Central Europe. The detailed analysis of  phenotypic variation with aid of quantitative techniques of metric and non-metric characters and geometric morphometrics are expected to reveal reliable information on species composition of particular fossil assemblages and range history of particular species throughout the Late Cenozoic period, apart of refining the criteria of discrimination of particular species in the fragmentary fossil records. The outputs of the project address thus various topics of biostratigraphy, paleoecology and historical biogeography of the European mammalian communities.

Alcathoe bat (Myotis alcathoe Helversen and Heller, 2001) in the Czech Republic: a complex study on one of the least known European cryptic bat species (Radek Lučan)

Increasing evidence of cryptic diversity in European bats raises fundamental questions for key mechanisms enabling sympatric occurrence of ecologically and morphologically similar species that could be resolved only with complex knowledge of their biology. The goals of the proposed project are to (1) gather and analyze data on spatial activity, roosting preferences, seasonal dynamics, spatio-temporal and genetic structure of the population and feeding ecology of Nymph's bat (Myotis alcathoe), one of the least known European cryptic bat species, in several model study areas in Czech Republic and to (2) elucidate key factors underlying sympatric coexistence of this species with its two cryptic congeners, the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus) and the Brandt's bat (Myotis brandtii). To address this goal, a wide spectrum of standard research and analytic techniques including radiotracking, analysis of faecal pellets, molecular genetics and multidimensional statistic methods will be used.

Evolutionary biogeography of a fruit-bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, in the Mediterranean region (I. Horáček, P. Benda, P. Hulva, H. Jahelková, R. Lučan, + colleagues from Masaryk University and Institute of Scientific Instruments CAS in Brno + students)

In geographic and genetic structure, the Mediterranean population of fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, an only offshot of the family Pteropodidae beyond tropes, markedly differs from all other bats of that region. The project is intended to explain the background factors of these specificities, history and life-history traits promoting colonization of the Mediterranean and maintenance of local populations and answer which aspects of the climatic and environmental history of the region affected it essentially. The project combines methods of fine-grain molecular phylogeography and a long-term field study of the biology of the model species in several geographically distant model subpopulations and is expected to provide a complex information on the Mediterranean fruit bat including estimates of its total abundance and a critical reexamination of its biogeographic specificities.

Microevolution of hedgehogs (B. Bolfíková & P. Hulva)

Family Erinaceidae contains 17 hedgehog species, which can be found in the Old World. In our working group, we are mainly interested in Western Palearctic hedgehogs from the genus Erinaceus (Erinaceus europaeus and E. roumanicus) that are important model organisms for revealing recolonisation routes after the last glaciation. We are taking advantage of Czech Republic location which is in mid-European region, where many lineages from different glacial refugia came into secondary contact. These contact zones are suitable for studying species interactions. Assessing the level of species cohesion in this zone is a key factor to understand speciation process in hedgehogs. We are also studying connections between demographic history, genetic architecture and biology of hedgehogs’ populations which were artificially introduced to islands. For our research we are using many approaches, including molecular genetics, morphometrics, parasitology etc. For more information you can contact us on jezek.dna@seznam.cz .