Braunkopfammer (Emberiza bruniceps)

Dr. Niloofar Alaei Kakhki

Humboldt postdoctoral fellow in the Population Ecology Group with a focus on hybridization and parallel trait evolution in wheatears.
Braunkopfammer (Emberiza bruniceps)
Image: Niloofar Alaei Kakhki
Niloofar Alaei Kakhki, Dr
Postdoc, Humboldt fellow
Niloofar Alaei Kakhki
Room 424
Dornburger Straße 159
07743 Jena
Research Interests Expand entry

I have always been interested in biological diversity, evolution, the genetic basis of speciation and species relationship. Identification the patterns of differentiation across the genomes of organisms help us to estimate the evolutionary processes causing the differentiation landscape and consider the role of this differentiation islands in speciation. My previous research mostly focuses on understanding the phylogenetic and historical biogeography of owls (Tyto alba), open habitat chats (Muscicapidae) and wheatears (Oenanthe) around the world. I have studied these subjects through integrative approaches, and examined the ecological and evolutionary questions and constructed the phylogenetic relationship among these birds.

Current Project Expand entry

Open-habitat chats as a clade within Saxicolinae (Aves, Muscicapidae), includes the Wheatears (genus Oenanthe) and other five related genera. Almost all species of this group occur in the arid ecosystems of Africa and Eurasia. In my Ph.D work, we found that the radiation of open-habitat chats was initiated in the late Miocene at around 7.4 Ma, most likely through niche expansion in Southern and the Horn of Africa. The extension of grasslands and other open habitats in Africa might have acted as an ecological opportunity to initiate the radiation of this group. Our recent pilot study based on RAD-type data just for some of the species of open habitat chats confirm the pervasive parallel phenotypic evolution in this group, so that often species with similar plumage coloration, sexual dimorphism, and species ecology are often less related than one would assume based on phenotypic or ecologic similarity.  

In current project (DFG 413417083), we are using the whole-genome re-sequencing data for almost 50 taxa of open habitat chats. We aim to reconstruct the species tree, and consider the gene trees variation cross the genome of open habitat chats, and uncover the genomic bases of intensive parallel evolution in this group of songbirds.

Publications Expand entry

Alaei Kakhki, N., Schweizer, M., Lutgen, D., Bowie, R.C.K., Shirihai, H., Suh, A., Schielzeth, H. & Burri, R. (2022). A phylogenomic assessment of processes underpinning convergent evolution in open-habitat chats. Molecular Biology and Evolution doi: 10.1093/molbev/msac278 

Schweizer, M., Warmuth, V., Alaei Kakhki, N., Aliabadian, M., Förschler, M., Shirihai, H., Suh, A. & Burri, R. (2019). Parallel plumage colour evolution and introgressive hybridization in wheatears. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 31: 100-110. doi: 10.1111/jeb.13401

Schweizer, M., Warmuth, V.M., Alaei Kakhki, N., Aliabadian, M., Förschler, M., Shirihai, H., Ewels, P., Gruselius, J., Olsen, R.A., Schielzeth, H., Suh, A. & Burri, R. (2019). Genome-wide evidence supports mitochondrial relationships and pervasive parallel phenotypic evolution in open-habitat chats. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 139: 106568. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2019.106568

Alaei Kakhki, N., Aliabadian, M., Forschler, M.I., Ghasempouri, S.M., Kiabi, B.H., Arregoitia, L.D.V. & Schweizer, M. (2018). Phylogeography of the Oenanthe hispanica-pleschanka-cypriaca complex (Aves, Muscicapidae: Saxicolinae): Diversification history of open-habitat specialists based on climate niche models, genetic data, and morphometric data. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 56: 408-427. doi: 10.1111/jzs.12206

Aliabadian, M., Alaei Kakhki, N., Mirshamsi, O., Nijman, V. & Roulin, A. (2018). Phylogeny, biogeography, and diversification of barn owls (Aves: Strigiformes). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 119: 904–918. doi: 10.1111/bij.12824

Alaei Kakhki, N., Aliabadian, M. & Schweizer, M. (2016). Out of Africa: biogeographic history of the open-habitat chats (Aves, Muscicapidae: Saxicolinae) across arid areas of the old world. Zoologica Scripta 45: 237-251. doi: 10.1111/zsc.12151

Haddadian shad, H., Dravish, J., Mohammadian, T., Mahmoudi, A., Alaei Kakhki, N., Ghanbarifardi, M., Molavi, F. & Barani-Beiranvand, H. (2014). Preliminary study of rodents using pellets of predatory birds in Iran. Iranian Journal of Animal Biosystematics 10: 36-55. doi: 10.22067/ijab.v10i1.36911

Aliabadian, M., Alaei Kakhki, N. & Darvish, J. (2012). Phylogenetic systematics of Barn Owl complex inferred from mitochondrial rDNA (16S rRNA) taxonomic implication. Taxonomy and Biosystematics 11: 1-12.

Alaei Kakhki, N. & Aliabadian, M. (2011). Mitochondrial DNA (CYTB) divergences in two distinct, Old World and New World Barn Owls. Iranian Journal of Animal Biosystematics 18: 47-55. doi: 10.22067/ijab.v8i1.25570