The non-gradual nature of explosive diversification in African cichlid fishes
by Walter Salzburger
(University of Basel, Switzerland)
2 March 2023 17:00
Mendel Lectures take place in Mendel´s refectory in the Mendel Museum Brno
Walter Salzburger is an Austrian-Swiss zoologist and evolutionary biologist. He studied at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, where he received his doctoral degree in 2001. After his postdoctoral training at the University of Konstanz in Germany and the Bauer Center for Genomics Research at Harvard University, USA, he became a junior group leader at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland in 2006. In 2007, he took up the position as tenure-track assistant professor at the Zoological Institute of the University of Basel, where he was later promoted to associate and then to full professor.
The research of Walter Salzburger focuses on the question of how variation at the level of the DNA translates into phenotypic and ecological diversity and on the identification of the patterns and processes that underlie adaptation, evolutionary innovation, and rapid evolutionary diversification. The main organismal study systems of Walter Salzburger and his research group are the exceptionally diverse cichlid fishes in the African Great Lakes, in particular the cichlids of Lake Tanganyika, but he is also interested in other fish and non-fish taxa to answer questions related to the origin of biological diversity. Recent examples include work on understanding vision in deep sea fishes and molecular adaptations to cope with subzero water temperatures in Antarctic notothenioid fishes.
Walter Salzburger has been awarded several prices, including the Walther Arndt Prize of the German Zoological Society. Among others, he received a Starting Grant (in 2008) and a Consolidator Grant (in 2013) from the European Research Council (ERC) for his integrative work on Lake Tanganyika cichlids. With his research, he was instrumental in turning Tanganyikan cichlids into a textbook example of adaptive radiation and explosive diversification.
From a rich array of his service to the academic community, the renown ‘Workshop on Population and Speciation Genomics’ in Český Krumlov, organized by him and colleagues, gained particular reputation among students of evolutionary genomics. On more formal grounds, Walter Salzburger serves as the president of the Swiss Zoological Society.