Marc Stift - Evolutionary genetics & ecology

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I am an evolutionary geneticist/ecologist/biologist, currently working at the University of Konstanz in the group of Prof Dr. Mark van Kleunen. Mating system evolution (loss of self-incompatibility) and polyploidy have been important themes in my research, but my broad interests also include the evolution of increased competitive ability in invasive species, and epigenetic inheritance. I work and have worked with a variety of study species, currently including Aegilops cylindricaArabidopsis lyrata, Arabis alpina, Brassica nigraMimulus guttatus, Solidago canadensis and S. gigantea.

Gentiana asclepiadea (Willow Gentian)

Phengaris (Maculinea) alcon rebeli, Mountain Alcon Blue in the process of laying eggs on a gentian.

Mimulus guttatus (Erythrante guttata)

Arabidopsis lyrata visited by a Syrphid Fly (Hoverfly)

Hiking on the Gamserugg in the Toggenburg area, Switzerland

  Oj Glasgow, dear green place, where the sun always shines and kilts are sold at the LIDL.

The latest news:

04-10-2018 Accepted to Frontiers in Plant Science: Preferential homologous chromosome pairing in a tetraploid intergeneric somatic hybrid (Citrus reticulata + Poncirus trifoliata) revealed by molecular marker inheritance
Mourad Kamiri, Marc Stift, Gilles Costantino, Dominique Dambier, Tarik Kabbage, Patrick Ollitrault, Yann Froelicher
The result of a collaboration that dates back a few years. Quite an interesting finding that this tetraploid Citrus-Poncirus somatic hybrid displayed inheritance intermediate between disomic and tetrasomic (for markers on all the known linkage groups). Am not aware of many examples like this, since we found the phenomenon of intermediate inheritance in Rorippa hybrids (see Stift et al 2008 Genetics).

19-02-2018Accepted to Basic and Applied Ecology (BAAE): Oviposition by the Mountain Alcon Blue butterfly increases with host plant flower number and host ant abundance. Samuel Carleial, Noëlie Maurel, Mark van Kleunen and Marc Stift.
Samuel´s third and last thesis chapter! This study looked at the different attributes that may affect egg-laying in Alcon Blue butterflies. These butterflies depend on a specific host plant (Gentiana asclepiadea) and a specific host ant (Myrmica scabrinodis). Alcon Blue larvae initially feed on the gentians´ flower buds, but also need specific Myrmica host ants to complete their life-cycle. Therefore, one would expect that butterflies oviposition may rely both on host plant and host ant cues.
In line with this idea, we found that butterflies were more likely to lay eggs and laid more eggs on host plants with many flowers per branch, but also on plants around which host ant-traffic was high. Especially the latter is important and interesting, because the possibility of ant-dependent oviposition has been debated. While clearly showing that oviposition may indeed be ant-dependent, our data do not tell anything about the underlying mechanism... Can butterflies smell the ants? Do they use other cues, for example subtle differences in vegetation? Or do they simply lay eggs close to where they have emerged from their ant nest?
15-01-2018Welcome to Courtney Gorman, who will do her PhD with me on the evolution of selfing.
22-11-2017Accepted to Journal of Ecology: Admixture increases performance of an invasive plant beyond first generation heterosis. Yan Li, Marc Stift and Mark van Kleunen.
Yan´s first PhD thesis chapter! Way to go. The paper is very complex, but has a relatively simple message about invasive species (or non-native species that could become invasive). In Mimulus guttatus (yellow monkeyflower), 
admixture had a net-positive effect on performance over two generations. This means that we should avoid creating opportunities for non-native species to exchange genetic material (through admixture) with plants from the native range, or with plants from other parts of the non-native range.
20-11-2017We filled the 3-year PhD position in plant evolutionary ecology, so will not consider any further applications.
19-10-2017Today I set up the GrENE-net experiment (GrENE=Genomics of Rapid Evolution in Novel Environments) in our Konstanz garden. This is part of a global experiment to study local adaptation in Arabidopsis thaliana. More information at this website.
01-10-2017Welcome to Rachel Höfer, Julia Kern and Kathryn Dimpfel. These three students will together do a project on allelopathy in grassland species under my co-supervision. 
12-09-2017NOW HIRING! --> Update --> Position now filled.
I offer a 3-year PhD position in plant evolutionary ecology, studying the evolution of selfing in Arabidopsis lyrata. The student will be based at the University of Konstanz. The project involves common-garden experiments in the species´ native range in Canada. The student will thus stay in Canada during the field seasons (collaboration with Prof. Marcel Dorken, Trent University, Canada).
01-09-2017Welcome to Nadja Koehler, who will do her Master-project with me, looking at the inheritance of genes linked to the S-locus (co-supervised by my PhD student Yan Li).
11-08-2017Congratulations to Karoline Jetter, who successfully defended her Bachelor project (supervised by Mialy Razanajatovo and myself). 
09-08-2017Now accepted in Journal of Evolutionary Biology - Relatively weak inbreeding depression in selfing but also in outcrossing populations of North American Arabidopsis lyrata. Samuel Carleial, Mark van Kleunen & Marc Stift.
Samuel´s second PhD thesis paper, well done! Paper shows that inbreeding depression is quite low in the North American populations (regardless of whether they are predominantly selfing or outcrossing) compared to estimates for European populations. This may explain why selfing could evolve in North America, but does not appear to have evolved in European populations.
08-08-2017Big news - I won a grant from the DFG (the German Science Foundation). This grant will allow me to hire another PhD student. Advertisement will be posted soon!
27-04-2017 Welcome to Karoline Jetter, who will do her Bachelor project with Mialy Razanajatovo and myself, trying to answer the question whether incompatible pollen (for example from other species) is rejected pre- or postzygotically. 
16-03-2017Now accepted in Journal of Ecology - In the presence of specialist root and shoot herbivory, invasive-range Brassica nigra populations have stronger competitive effects than native-range populationsAyub Oduor, Mark van Kleunen, and Marc Stift.
10-11-2016Now accepted in Oecologia - Small reductions in corolla size and pollen:ovule ratio, but no changes in flower shape in selfing populations of the North American Arabidopsis lyrata. Samuel Carleial, Mark van Kleunen, and Marc Stift.
Samuel´s first PhD thesis paper, well done! Paper shows that the evolution of selfing has not led to consistent changes towards the selfing syndrome in terms of flower size. There were some reductions in P:O ratios, but no shape changes (despite a very very thorough morphometric analysis).

16-08-2016Now accepted in Heredity - What causes mating system shifts in plants? Arabidopsis lyrata as a case study. Barbara Mable, Jörg Hagmann, Sang-Tae Kim, Aileen Adam, Elizabeth Kilbride, Detlef Weigel, and Marc Stift.
15-08-2016Congratulations to Felicitas Oehler, who just defended her Bachelor thesis. Well done - and good luck on your Erasmus semester in Sweden!
In case you are curious... Felicitas' experiment suggested that - under benign greenhouse conditions - the bioeffector Proradix neither has an effect on growth of native German grassland species, nor on their competitive interactions. More complex experiments needed...

09-05-2016Just back from Třeboň (Czech Republic) where I presented a talk about the long term effects of heterosis in Mimulus guttatus at the annual PopBio meeting
01-05-2016Welcome to Felicitas Oehler, who will do her Bachelor thesis with me on potential (side) effects of bio-effectors on native German grassland species 
11-04-2016 I have now officially joined the editorial board of HeredityLooking forward to receiving some quality submissions!
01-01-2016Happy New Year! - I have now officially joined the editorial board of Plant Diversity (formerly Acta Botanica Yunnanica and Plant Diversity and Resources). Looking forward to receiving some quality submissions!
30-10-2015Now published - The Interaction between root herbivory and competitive ability of native and invasive-range populations of Brassica nigraPLoS One.
13-09-2015Now published - Admixture between native and invasive populations may increase invasiveness of Mimulus guttatusProceedings of the Royal Society B.

23-07-2015 Now published - Costs associated with the evolution of selfing in North American populations of Arabidopsis lyrata? Evolutionary Ecology.
Main finding is that plants from selfing populations of Arabidopsis lyrata have reduced germination rates compared to outcrossing populations, but are equally susceptible to the generalist herbivore Mamestra brassicae. 

22-04-2015     Now published - Evolution of the selfing syndrome in Arabis alpina (Brassicaceae). PLoS One.
Main finding is fairly simple, but cool; selfing populations of Arabis alpina have about 4x smaller flowers than outcrossers of the same species. Author list: 


07-03-2015Project on the role of epigenetics in local adaptation funded by the DFG


Photo gallery:

Swiss Alps: Toggenburg area, June 2015
Above: View on Chaeserugg from the back-drop of the Gamserugg.
Below: View on Wildhaus and Alt Sankt Johann from Gamsalp.
Portugal: Aegilops cylindrica and bread wheat experiment 2011
Above: setting up the experiment with Diana Ferreira, Marcos Nogueira, Katya Mamonova
Below: Ae. cylindrica competing with bread wheat under control (greener plants) and drought conditions (brownish plants)


Before leaving, why not check out the rest of my website: Employment historyRandom interesting thingspeople I collaborate with or my publications??