The working group focuses on evolution, function and threats to the diversity of animal organisms. Physical traits and behavior of animals are influenced by numerous environmental factors, and environmental changes in the course of climate change pose major challenges to species and ecosystems. We combine reconstructions of the effects of past, e.g. glacial, environmental change with studies of recent populations and species, among others, to document existing and expected consequences of global change.
In our research, we use genetic, morphological, behavioral, and biochemical methods to study ecological and evolutionary processes at the level of individuals, populations, and species. One focus is on the adaptive radiations of East African cichlids, which have produced incredible diversity in appearance and behavior within earth-historically short time periods. The opposite is true for numerous examples from the native faunal spectrum, whose diversity is another focus of our research. In this respect, the working group is significantly involved in the ABOL (Austrian Barcode of Life) project initiative, where the entire native biodiversity is to be recorded by referenced barcode sequences. The taxonomic scope of the working group ranges from arachnids, crustaceans, insects to vertebrates, combining morphological, (bio)chemical and molecular biological methods ("integrative taxonomy"). Within species, we repeatedly find earth-historically old lineages that do not or hardly differ in external characteristics. Research topics in this context are the influence of the geological and climatic history of the continent on the evolution of this so-called cryptic diversity, the dynamics of their co-existence and eventual diversification in ecological niches, and resilience to environmental change.