Philine Small Name: Feulner, Philine

Status: Postdoc


Tel.: +49-(0)251-83-


Philine Feulner at eawag

Research interests:

  • My research comprises various topics of evolutionary biology like speciation, adaptive radiation, population genetics, and ecological & evolutionary genomics

Curriculum vitae:

  • 2010 - 2012 Postdoctoral research fellow in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Group, University of Münster
  • 12/2007 – 12/2009 Marie Curie postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield
  • 06/2006 – 11/2007 Postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam
  • 01/2003 – 05/2006 PhD in Evolutionary Biology at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam
  • 9/1996 – 12/2002 Diploma in Biology at the Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel (subjects: Zoology, Marine Science, and Biochemistry)

In the evolutionary bioinformatics group here in Münster, I am working on a stickleback resequencing project in collaboration with the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön and the Institute for Marine Science in Kiel. Together we assess an extensive sequence data set comprising of multiple individuals from different environmental settings. This project aims to access parallel genome evolution in the three-spined stickleback under natural conditions. Within this project I am interested in detecting signatures of adaptation on the genomic level. Specifically, I concentrate on understanding the adaptive impact of structural genomic variation such as insertions, deletions, inversions, and translocations.

Previously I was working as a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow on the EC Transfer of Knowledge project MAERO (Molecular Adaptation in Ecologically Relevant Organisms). In four different model species (Arabidopsis lyrata, passerine birds, Littorina winkles, and Soay sheep) we were studying adaptive genetic variation in natural populations for whom extensive genomic data are available. A key aim of the project was to develop methods for distinguishing between the signatures of demography and selection on sequence variation. In my specific project I was studying the Soay sheep of St. Kilda. This sheep population is one of the best studied natural mammal populations with life history data recorded on ~6000 animals over a >20 year period. A genetic map has been used to identify fitness related QTL and a 40K SNP chip was available. Furthermore, genome sequence assemblies from domestic sheep and cattle were available as bioinformatics resources. Population size of sheep on St. Kilda is naturally regulated by the availability of resources and is often reduced dramatically. This offers the opportunity to study selection and adaptation in the wild. However, there is evidence that recent admixture between Soay and domestic sheep has occurred, possibly influencing patterns of genetic variation in the study population. My aim was to untangle the effects of adaptation and admixture at a genomic level.

During my PhD and first postdoc at the University of Potsdam I studied speciation processes in the African weakly electric fish genus Campylomormyrus. The African weakly electric fish or mormyrids possess an electric organ and use their Electric Organ Discharge (EOD) for active electrolocation and social communication. Interestingly, the mormyrid genus Campylomormyrus contains a huge variety of different EOD waveforms. To shed light on the speciation processes within this genus, we have sampled fish near Brazzaville (Congo Basin). We adopted a multidisciplinary approach, combining a variety of molecular markers (mitochondrial and nuclear sequences as well as self developed microsatellites) with geometric morphometrics, and monitoring of diversification in the EOD waveforms to build up the first convincing phylogenetic hypothesis for Campylomormyrus. Morphometric analyses showed that the major source of differentiation among clades resides in traits correlated with feeding ecology. Furthermore mate choice experiments showed assortative mating due to EOD characteristics. Playback experiments with artificial EODs verified that the EOD is crucial for the decision of the female. Our results, suggest that Campylomormyrus underwent an adaptive radiation possibly triggered by selection on EOD characteristics involved in foraging and mating behaviour.


  1. Yun Huang, Frédéric JJ Chain, Mahesh Panchal, Christophe Eizaguirre, Martin Kalbe, Tobias L Lenz, Irene E Samonte, Monika Stoll, Erich Bornberg-Bauer, Thorsten BH Reusch, Manfred Milinski, Philine G.D. Feulner
    Habitat-specific gene expression in immune tissues between lake and river sticklebacks Molecular Ecology, 2015
  2. Philine G.D. Feulner, Frédéric JJ Chain, Mahesh Panchal, Yun Huang, Christophe Eizaguirre, Martin Kalbe, Tobias L Lenz, Irene E Samonte, Monika Stoll, Erich Bornberg-Bauer, Thorsten BH Reusch, Manfred Milinski
    Genomics of Divergence along a Continuum of Parapatric Population Differentiation, PLoS Genetics 11(2): e1004966. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004966, 2015
    [Online access]
  3. Frédéric JJ Chain*, Philine G.D. Feulner*, Mahesh Panchal*, Christophe Eizaguirre, Martin Kalbe, Tobias L Lenz, Irene E Samonte-Padilla, Monika Stoll, Erich Bornberg-Bauer, Manfred Milinski, Thorsten BH Reusch
    Extensive Copy-Number Variation of Young Genes across Stickleback Populations, PLoS Genetics 10(12):e1004830, 2014
    [Online access]
  4. Philine G.D. Feulner*, Frédéric J J Chain*, Mahesh Panchal*, Christophe Eizaguirre, Martin Kalbe, Tobias L Lenz, Marvin Mundry, Irene Samonte-Padilla, Monika Stoll, Manfred Milinski, Thorsten B H Reusch, Erich Bornberg-Bauer
    Genome-wide patterns of standing genetic variation in a marine population of three-spined sticklebacks, Molecular Ecology (2013)
    [Online access]
  5. M. Mundry, E. Bornberg-Bauer, M. Sammeth, P.G.D. Feulner, Evaluating characteristics of de novo assembly software on 454 transcriptome data: a simulation approach PLoS ONE 7, e31410 (2012)
  6. J. Stapley*, J. Reger*, P.G.D. Feulner, C. Smadja, J. Galindo, R. Ekblom, C. Bennison, A.D. Ball, A.P. Beckerman, J. Slate Adaptation Genomics: the next generation Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25:705-712, (2010)
  7. Slate, J., Santure, A.W., Feulner, P.G.D, Brown, E.A., Ball, A.D., Johnston, S.E. & Gratten, J. Genome mapping in intensively studied wild vertebrate populations Trends in Genetics 26:275-284 (2010)
  8. Feulner, P.G.D., Plath, M., Engelmann, J., Kirschbaum, F., & Tiedemann, R. Electrifying love: electric fish use species-specific discharge for mate recognition. Biology Letters 5:225-228. (2009) Coverage of the above paper in The New York Times, New Scientist and Nature
  9. Feulner, P.G.D., Plath, M., Engelmann, J., Kirschbaum, F., & Tiedemann, R. Article Addendum - Magic trait Electric Organ Discharge (EOD): Dual function of electric signals promotes speciation in African weakly electric fish. Communicative & Integrative Biology 2:issue 4. (2009) [Online access].
  10. Skog, A., Zachos, F.E., Rueness, E.K., Feulner, P.G.D., Mysterud, A., Langvatn, R, Lorenzini, R., Hmwe, S.S., Lehoczky, I.,Hartl, G.B., Stenseth, N.C., & Jakobsen, K.S. Phylogeography of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in Europe. Journal of Biogeography 36:66-77. (2009)
  11. Tobler, M., DeWitt, T.J., Schlupp, I., Garcia de Leon, F.J., Herrmann, R., Feulner, P.G.D., Tiedemann, R., Plath, M. Toxic hydrogen sulfide and dark caves: phenotypic and genetic divergence across two abiotic environmental gradients in Poecilia mexicana. Evolution 62:2643-2659. (2008)
  12. Feulner, P.G.D., Kirschbaum, F., & Tiedemann, R. Adaptiveradiation in the Congo River: A sympatric speciation scenario for African weakly electric fish (Teleostei; Mormyridae; Campylomormyrus). Journal of Physiology - Paris 102:340-346. (2008)
  13. Feulner, P.G.D., Kirschbaum, F., Mamonekene V., Ketmaier V. & Tiedemann, R. Adaptive radiation in African weakly electric fish (Teleostei: Mormyridae: Campylomormyrus): a combined molecular and morphological approach. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20:403-414. (2007)
  14. Feulner, P.G.D., Kirschbaum, F., Schugardt C., Ketmaier V. & Tiedemann, R. Electrophysiological and molecular genetic evidence for sympatrically occuring cryptic species in African weakly electric fishes (Teleostei: Mormyridae: Campylomormyrus). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39:198-208. (2006)
  15. Feulner, P.G.D., Kirschbaum, F. & Tiedemann, R. Eighteen microsatellite loci for endemic African weakly electric fish (Campylomormyrus, Mormyridae) and their cross species applicability among related taxa. Molecular Ecology Notes 5:446-448. (2005)
  16. Feulner, P.G.D., Bielfeldt, W. Zachos, F.E., Bradvarovic, J., Eckert, I. & Hartl,G.B. Mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite analyses of the genetic status of the presumed subspecies Cervus elaphus montanus (Carpathian red deer). Heredity 93:299-306. (2004)