Permanent Fellow

Dieter Ebert , Dr. phil., Permanent Fellow

Professor der Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie

Universität Basel

Geboren 1961 in Saarburg, Germany
Studium der Biologie und Chemie an der Technischen Universität München, der University of South Alabama und der Universität Basel


The Processes Governing Antagonistic Coevolution

My research interest is in understanding biological diversity, i.e., the evolution of traits that make organisms look and function differently. In particular, I am interested in how processes of coevolution contribute to this. In my project, I will focus on a review of the population genetic and biological concepts that underlie coevolution in antagonistic relationships, mainly the coevolution of hosts and parasites. During coevolution, hosts evolve to minimize the costs associated with parasitism, for example by evolving mechanisms to avoid parasites, by resisting parasites, or by tolerating parasites. In contrast, parasites (including pathogens) evolve to maximize transmission to the next host as well as reproduction and survival within a host. The parasite's means of maximizing its fitness usually causes costs for the host, which forms the core of host-parasite conflict, the driving element of antagonistic coevolution. In the last 40 years, simple models have been developed to describe this reciprocal process, but empirical work is still in its beginnings. Existing models are, however, metaphors of the actual process and do not go beyond the minimal concept. In the last few years, a number of new findings, technologies, and concepts have appeared, which have moved the field forward and allow us to refine the existing models. These refined models allow for more specific tests of hypotheses, by making testable predictions possible. In my project, I will introduce the new developments in the field and show how they contribute to moving it forward. I will then incorporate these concepts in the existing models and derive specific predictions and hypotheses. This project will incorporate aspects of
- infection biology: the infection process is a series of steps, each regulated by different genes, some of which are directly involved in coevolution;
- next-generation-sequencing: high throughput sequencing technology allows us to find the genes underlying adaptive processes much faster;
- population genetics: coevolutionary interactions leave traces of the evolution-ary history in the genome, which can be analyzed with statistical genomic tools;
- ploidy level: models assume simple genetic systems with simple (haploid) genomes, while most host organisms we are concerned with are diploid (have two sets of all genes).
With my project, I hope to gain a better understanding of how coevolution works and which models can explain the process best. I want to explore whether there are general rules determining the coevolutionary processes and whether they result in patterns we can predict and observe in natural systems. Furthermore, I want to explore whether coevolution is a universal process that happens everywhere and in each system, or if it is specific to a limited set of conditions. Answering these questions would be a major step forward in understanding biodiversity.

Recommended Reading

Ebert, D., D. Duneau, M. D. Hall, P. Luijckx, J. P. Andras, L. Du Pasquier and F. Ben-Ami (2016). "A population biology perspective on the stepwise infection process of the bacterial pathogen Pasteuria ramosa in Daphnia." Advances in Parasitology 91: 265 310. doi: 10.1016/bs.apar.2015.10.001.
Ebert, D. (2013). "The epidemiology and evolution of symbionts with mixed-mode transmission." Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 44: 623-643. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-032513-100555.
- (2005). "Ecology, Epidemiology, and Evolution of Parasitism in Daphnia." Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information. Open access source:

Publikationen aus der Fellowbibliothek

Ebert, Dieter ( 2017)
The evolutionary consequences of stepwise infection processes

Ebert, Dieter ( 2011)
A genome for the environment

Ebert, Dieter ( 2010)
Intensive farming : evolutionary implications for parasites and pathogens

Ebert, Dieter ( 2010)
The reduced genome of parasitic microsporidian enterocytozoon bieneusi lacks genes for core carbon metabolism

Ebert, Dieter ( 2009)
Comparative metagenomics of Daphnia symbionts

Ebert, Dieter ( 2008)
The evolution and expression of virulence

Ebert, Dieter ( 2008)
Host-parasite coevolution : insights from the Daphnia-parasite model system

Ebert, Dieter ( 2008)
Genetic diversity of Daphnia magna populations enhances resistance to parasites


Global Patterns of Diversity in Disease Resistance