Western Black-eared Wheatear

Dr. Reto Burri

Principle Investigator in the Population Ecology Group.
Dr.
Reto Burri
Phone
+49 3641 9-49419
Fax
+49 3641 9-49402
Reto Burri
Room 408
Dornburger Straße 159
07743 Jena
Curriculum vitae Show content

2016 - present Principle Investigator
Department of Population Ecology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany

2012 - 2016 Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Ecology and Genetics (Ellegren lab), Uppsala University, Sweden

2011 - 2012 Swiss National Science Foundation Early Postdoc Fellow
Department of Ecology and Genetics (Ellegren lab), Uppsala University, Sweden

2010 - 2011 Postdoc
Department of Ecology and Evolution (Fumagalli and Roulin labs), University of Lausanne, Switzerland

2005 - 2010 PhD Student and Teaching Assistant
Department of Ecology and Evolution (Fumagalli and Roulin labs), University of Lausanne, Switzerland

2004 - 2005 High School Teaching Certificate
University of Bern, Switzerland

2002 - 2004 MSc in Biology
Institute of Ecology and Evolution (Excoffier lab), University of Bern, Switzerland

1999 - 2002 Undergraduate Studies in Biology
University of Bern, Switzerland

Research Interests Show content
Afghan Wheatear © Reto Burri

I have a longstanding interest in the evolution of biodiversity. I have been working on diverse topics, including the evolutionary history of an immunity-related multigene family, the local adaptation and genetic basis of a color polymorphism and the evolution of genome differentiation following speciation. The common denominator unifying this work is my interest in understanding the molecular basis and the processes underpinning the evolution of biodiversity at various biological levels.

My current research aims at combining the purely genomic approach taken in my work on the population genomics of Ficedula flycatchers with the more phenotype-centred approach of my past research on color polymorphism in barn owls (Tyto alba). To this end I am developing a research program implementing population genomic and comparatve genomic approaches that aims at investigating the molecular basis of phenotypic variation and species diversification in wheatears (genus Oenanthe).

Selected publications Show content

Burri, R. (2017). Interpreting differentiation landscapes in the light of long-term linked selection. Evolution Letters 1: 118-131. doi:10.1002/evl3.14

Burri, R., Antoniazza, S., Gaigher, A., Ducrest, A.-L., Simon, C., The European Barn Owl Network, Fumagalli, L., Goudet, J. & Roulin, A. (2016). The genetic basis of color-related local adaptation in a ring-like colonization around the Mediterranean. Evolution 70: 140-153. doi:10.1111/evo.12824

Burri, R., Nater, A., Kawakami, T., Mugal, C.F., Olason, P.I., Smeds, L., Suh, A., Dutoit, L., Bures, S., Garamszegi, L.Z., Hogner, S., Moreno, J., Qvarnström, A., Ruzic, M., Sæther, S.A., Sætre, G.-P., Török, J. & Ellegren, H. (2015). Linked selection and recombination rate variation drive the evolution of the genomic landscape of differentiation across the speciation continuum of Ficedula flycatchers. Genome Research 25: 1656-1665. doi:10.1101/gr.196485.115

Burri, R., Promerová, M., Goebel, J. & Fumagalli, L. (2014). PCR-based isolation of multigene families: lessons from the avian MHC class IIB. Molecular Ecology Resources 14: 778-788. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12234

Ellegren, H., Smeds, L., Burri, R., Olason, P.I., Backström, N., Kawakami, T., Kunstner, A., Makinen, H., Nadachowska-Brzyska, K., Qvarnstrom, A., Uebbing, S. & Wolf, J.B.W. (2012). The genomic landscape of species divergence in Ficedula flycatchers. Nature 491: 756-760. doi:10.1038/nature11584

Burri, R., Salamin, N., Studer, R.A., Roulin, A. & Fumagalli, L. (2010). Adaptive Divergence of Ancient Gene Duplicates in the Avian MHC Class II B. Molecular Biology and Evolution 27: 2360-2374. doi:10.1093/molbev/msq120

Antoniazza, S., Burri, R., Fumagalli, L., Goudet, J. & Roulin, A. (2010). Local adaptation maintains clinal variation in melanin-based coloration of European barn owls (Tyto alba). Evolution 64: 1944-1954. doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.00969.x

Burri, R., Niculita-Hirzel, H., Salamin, N., Roulin, A. & Fumagalli, L. (2008). Evolutionary Patterns of MHC Class II B in Owls and Their Implications for the Understanding of Avian MHC Evolution. Molecular Biology and Evolution 25: 1180-1191. doi:10.1093/molbev/msn065

Current projects

Molecular Ecology & Evolutionary Genomics Show content
Eastern black-eared wheatear © Reto Burri

Wheatears (genus Oenanthe) are an about 6.6 my old group of passerine birds mainly inhabiting arid and rocky ecosystems of Eurasia and Africa that exhibit striking patterns of phenotypic polymorphism: (i) High rates of character switching across the phylogeny suggests multiple convergent origins of numerous phenotypes, including melanin-based coloration and complex behavioral traits such as seasonal migration. (ii) Multiple interspecific differences segregate as polymorphisms within species. And finally, (iii) one of these polymorphisms found in black-eared wheatear (O. hispanica) and pied wheatear (O. pleschanka) supposedly arose by reciprocal introgression among these two pervasively hybridizing sister species. The convergent emergence of phenotypes across the phylogeny both within and between species points towards an involvement of a labile molecular switch between phenotypes.

The current project aims at addressing multiple questions relating to the evolution of phenotypic diversity within and between species, and to the evolution of species. Currently we settled out to characterize the genetic population structure across the hybrid zone of black-eared and pied wheatear using genome-wide polymorphism data. In future phenotypic, genetic, and methylomic polymorphism data from within these species, from the hybrid zone, and from across the wheatear phylogeny will be used to identify the molecular bases of diverse color phenotypes and study their evolution, including the demographic and genomic constrains under which they evolve.

Population & Speciation Genomics Show content
Collared flycatcher © Reto Burri

As two species diverge, genetic differences accumulate between their genomes. This process of differentiation and divergence is supposedly spearheaded by the genome regions involved in the reproductive isolation of species. Accordingly, regions of the genome that exhibit accentuated levels of differentiation for a long time have been interpreted as strong candidates to be involved in reproductive isolation. My work on Ficedula flycatchers contributed to the emerging picture of highly heterogeneous distributions of differentiation across the genomes of many organisms, including vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants. Using population genomic analyses of 200 re-sequenced bird genomes we were able to show that in flycatchers high differentiation evolves as a consequence of linked selection in genome regions with low rates of recombination. These results suggested that high differentiation between species cannot generally be linked to speciation or local adaptation. In ongoing work we are characterizing the footprints of positive selection and inferring genome regions likely involved in species evolution and local adaptation.

Key publications

Burri, R., Nater, A., Kawakami, T., Mugal, C.F., Olason, P.I., Smeds, L., Suh, A., Dutoit, L., Bures, S., Garamszegi, L.Z., Hogner, S., Moreno, J., Qvarnström, A., Ruzic, M., Sæther, S.A., Sætre, G.-P., Török, J. & Ellegren, H. (2015). Linked selection and recombination rate variation drive the evolution of the genomic landscape of differentiation across the speciation continuum of Ficedulaflycatchers. Genome Research 25: 1656-1665. doi:10.1101/gr.196485.115

Ellegren, H., Smeds, L., Burri, R., Olason, P.I., Backström, N., Kawakami, T., Kunstner, A., Makinen, H., Nadachowska-Brzyska, K., Qvarnstrom, A., Uebbing, S. & Wolf, J.B.W. (2012). The genomic landscape of species divergence in Ficedula flycatchers. Nature 491: 756-760. doi:10.1038/nature11584

Multigene Family Evolution Show content
Barn owl asleep © Reto Burri

Gene duplication is an important source of evolutionary novelty that has led to the evolution of paramount adaptations, such as the vertebrate immune system. Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) multigene family are crucial component of vertebrate adaptive immunity that evolved by gene duplication. Although the duplication history of these genes has been studied extensively in mammals, in birds it has remained obscure until recently. Studies mainly from fowl and songbirds had suggested that in birds different forms of recombination homogenize the sequences of different MHC lineages within species in a process referred to as concerted evolution and thereby conceal duplication history. Our initial work on MHC class IIB (MHCIIB) genes in owls (Strigiformes) started casting a different light, by revealing an origin of two MHCIIB lineages well before the evolution of the owl order. In a subsequent study we then were able to place the origin of these two MHCIIB lineages before the neoavian radiation. In the most recent study, in which we systematically surveyed MHCIIB variation across the entire avian tree of life, we now show that the evolution of these two ancient avian MHCIIB lineages predates the radiation of all extant birds.

Key publications:

Burri, R., Promerová, M., Goebel, J. & Fumagalli, L. (2014). PCR-based isolation of multigene families: lessons from the avian MHC class IIB. Molecular Ecology Resources 14: 778-788. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12234

Burri, R., Salamin, N., Studer, R.A., Roulin, A. & Fumagalli, L. (2010). Adaptive Divergence of Ancient Gene Duplicates in the Avian MHC Class II B. Molecular Biology and Evolution 27: 2360-2374. doi:10.1093/molbev/msq120

Burri, R., Niculita-Hirzel, H., Salamin, N., Roulin, A. & Fumagalli, L. (2008). Evolutionary Patterns of MHC Class II B in Owls and Their Implications for the Understanding of Avian MHC Evolution. Molecular Biology and Evolution 25: 1180-1191. doi:10.1093/molbev/msn065

Immunogenetics Show content
Barn owl © Reto Burri

With their role in pathogen resistance, genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are directly linked to individual fitness. In this project we investigate the role of MHC class IIB and MHC class I diversity in individual fitness variation in a population of European barn owls (Tyto alba), for which long-term data is available, including parasite data and various experimental challenges of the immune system. To this end, we are currently working on the characterization the molecular architecture of MHC diversity in barn owls, knowledge of which we expect to enhance the power of analyses relating MHC diversity to individual fitness.

Key publications

Gaigher, A., Burri, R., Gharib, W., Taberlet, P., Roulin, A. & Fumagalli, L. (2016). Family-assisted inference of the genetic architecture of MHC variation. Molecular Ecology Resources doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12537

Share this page
Friedrich Schiller University in the social media:
Studying amid excellence:
  • Logo of the "Total E-Quality" initiative
  • Logo of the Best Practice Club "Family at the University"
  • Logo of the "Partner University of High Performance Sports" project
Top of the page